GRAND FORKS – Former Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain is coming to Grand Forks on Thursday to visit UND’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems programs and do some stumping in North Dakota’s Senate race.

McCain, R-Ariz., will tour UND’s UAS Training Center with Sen. John Hoeven and Rep. Rick Berg a day after a group of executives with aircraft company Northrop Grumman comes to Grand Forks to meet with officials to discuss the area’s potential in UAS support.

Hoeven’s office announced the visits Tuesday.

Hoeven spokesman Don Canton said the goal of the visits was to advertise the area’s ability to support growth UAS activities and “to showcase Grand Forks and all of the tremendous things they’re doing on campus and in the community” and “to help make Grand Forks a hub for UAS.”

However, Chris Van Guilder of Berg’s campaign said Tuesday he was working on details of a possible political event with McCain while he is in town.

Berg, R-N.D., is running against former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

McCain’s trip to North Dakota comes the same week as that of a high-profile Democrat in support of Berg’s rival. Former President Bill Clinton gave a stump speech for Heitkamp in Fargo Monday.

Canton said McCain’s UND appearance will concentrate on UAS projects and will be in the capacity of a politician who holds considerable military clout as a ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“He’s obviously a very influential member of the committee,” Canton said. “Also, in military affairs, he’s very influential.”

McCain, Hoeven and Berg will tour UND’s UAS Training Center, including simulator training facilities, flight and maintenance operations and unmanned vehicle displays.

McCain was in North Dakota in June, also with Hoeven, R-N.D., when the two senators visited Fargo’s Air National Guard base.

That visit was just after Mitt Romney clinched the Republican nomination for president. McCain was the party’s nominee in the 2008 election, in which he was defeated by then-Sen. Barack Obama.

By Gary Mortimer

Founder and Editor of sUAS News | Gary Mortimer has been a commercial balloon pilot for 25 years and also flies full-size helicopters. Prior to that, he made tea and coffee in air traffic control towers across the UK as a member of the Royal Air Force.