Roundtable highlights unmanned aircraft business potential in North Dakota

JohnHovenroundtable

By Brandi Jewett

Encouraging unmanned aircraft systems-related businesses to settle in North Dakota was among priorities discussed Tuesday at a Chamber of Commerce roundtable in Grand Forks.

Grand Sky, hailed as the nation’s first UAS business park, has its anchor tenant secured, but leaders would like to see others start filling in space at the park, located just southwest of Grand Forks Air Force Base

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., who attended the roundtable, said he will meet with a prospective company called FlightSafety International Wednesday to talk about a potential lease at Grand Sky.

FlightSafety is an aviation training company, and Hoeven said he is optimistic it’ll join Grand Sky.

The state also is courting other businesses, including General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. Yamaha also named as a potential lead Tuesday because it is a manufacturer of unmanned aircraft

The state also is courting other businesses, including General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. Yamaha also named as a potential lead Tuesday because it is a manufacturer of unmanned aircraft.

There has been a lot of interest from foreign firms as well, said Terry Sando, UAS sector senior manager for the Grand Forks Economic Development Corporation.

Around half a dozen companies with UAS-related services currently are full or virtual tenants at UND’s Center for Innovation, according to Tom Kenville, the center’s vice president of development.

“Many of them will end up out at Grand Sky as they get their legs and get going,” Kenville said.

While manufacturers of aircraft and the sensors have been in the business spotlight, others noted the state should also think about bringing in data firms that would manage, analyze and securely store the large amounts of data unmanned aircraft will collect.

“We’re in good position to recruit a data center,” Chamber President/CEO BArry Wilfahrt said.

He cited the UAS industry’s recent fortune in the state Legislature, which allocated $7.5 million for Grand Sky split between infrastructure development and securing a second major tenant.

http://www.grandforksherald.com/news/business/3753153-roundtable-highlights-unmanned-aircraft-business-potential-north-dakota