Gov. Jack Dalrymple today said North Dakota's open airspace and extensive aviation resources and expertise make the state a strong candidate for a national test site for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Dalrymple said the state must continue their work to land one of six national UAS test sites.
"North Dakota has a long-standing history in UAS operations and development, ranging from military applications to offering the nation's first UAS bachelor's degree at the University of North Dakota," Dalrymple said. "By leveraging our resources and expertise at the University of North Dakota, the Grand Forks Air Force Base, the North Dakota Air National Guard and at our growing cluster of high-tech businesses that support our UAS industry, we have a great deal to offer in establishing a North Dakota test site."
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill requires the FAA to select six test sites as part of a program to safely integrate manned and unmanned aircraft in the National Airspace System. Initially, the FAA intended to identify the six test sites by the end of 2012, but the selection process has not been completed.
In his executive budget, Dalrymple included $1 million to support the North Dakota Airspace Integration Team's work in getting North Dakota selected as a national test site for UAS integration. Dalrymple's budget includes an additional $4 million in development funds to be appropriated only if North Dakota is selected to operate a national test site. North Dakota has long been a leader in aviation, and quickly expanded into UAS operations and development more than a decade ago.