North Dakota Funds University-Utility Drone Work

The North Dakota Centers of Excellence Commission recently awarded a $499,891 funding request for a Research North Dakota Grant in support of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research.

The University of North Dakota’s (UND) Center for Innovation, in partnership with Xcel Energy and Elbit Systems of America LLC, will assess the feasibility of applying high- and low-altitude UAS, coupled with advanced data modeling and analysis, to improve electric distribution infrastructure damage assessment and restoration capabilities following a natural disaster.

Xcel Energy, an electricity and natural gas company based in Minneapolis, provides power across eight Western and Midwestern states. Fort Worth, Texas-headquartered Elbit Systems of America provides solutions and services focused on the commercial aviation, defense, homeland security, cybersecurity and medical instrumentation markets. Elbit is currently partnering with North Dakota State University on a project that tests out large versus small drones for crop and livestock production.

Research ND promotes the development and commercialization of products and processes through industry/university research partnerships. Research ND funds are awarded on a competitive basis for projects and are based on proposals submitted jointly by researchers from a North Dakota research university and a private-sector partner.

Bruce Gjovig, a researcher for the UND project, told the Grand Forks Herald, “Xcel Energy came to us because they wanted to see how the tools of UAS together with data can help them do early assessment of storm damage, whether that be from a blizzard or a tornado or hail.”



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