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Executive Director, UND Institute for Unmanned and Autonomous Systems


The University of North Dakota (UND) has newly created the UND Institute for Unmanned and Autonomous Systems and is seeking a founding Executive Director for the Institute who will be an energetic leader and passionate proponent for Unmanned and Autonomous research, education and economic development.

Why UND and North Dakota? Over the past decade, UND and North Dakota have established a unique and preeminent position in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). UND was designated by North Dakota as a UAS Center of Excellence that will be incorporated into this Institute and boasts the first undergraduate degree in UAS. The University is a national leader in research, leading to integration of UAS into national airspace, and is viewed by the federal government as a ‘go-to’ institution for UAS research and policy development.

The University’s UAS leadership, combined with significant, long-term investment by the state of North Dakota, has helped create a unique research, education and economic development ecosystem in North Dakota, with many first-in-the-nation assets, including the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, one of only six FAA-authorized UAS test sites in the country, and the only organization in the nation currently authorized for Beyond Visual Line of Site UAS operations, which will be a major factor in attracting research and economic development partners to the region.  Currently, UAS economic activity is evidenced by the growing number of new UAS companies located at the University and at ‘Grand Sky,’ the nation’s first UAS Business Park. Hosting major UAS contractors Northrop Grumman and General Atomics, ‘Grand Sky’ is a unique private-public partnership located at Grand Forks Air Force Base.

The Institute. Recognizing that these assets and activities represent a major driver of economic diversification in North Dakota and beyond, UND seeks to build on its leadership position by bringing into one organization and under the leadership of the Executive Director the many facets of Unmanned and Autonomous Systems. As it is currently conceived, the Institute will be tightly integrated with the educational and research missions of the University and will encompass research, development and innovation related to Unmanned and Autonomous Systems in areas including but not limited to:

  • Flight
  • Commercial applications in such sectors as energy, power, agriculture, transportation and security
  • Data analytics
  • Policy and ethics

The University and the state will also look to the Institute for leadership in the development of Next Generation Autonomy, including but not limited to: land and water-based systems; counter-autonomy; anti-spoofing; robotics; and cybersecurity.

The Executive Director Role: The successful candidate will play an important role in the development of the exciting Unmanned and Autonomous landscape in North Dakota. Reporting directly to the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, the Executive Director will be responsible for:

  • Developing strong research, educational and business relationships within and beyond the North Dakota Unmanned and Autonomous ecosystem.
  • Connecting University faculty, staff, students, resources and infrastructure with local, regional, national and international government agencies and businesses in order to continue to grow North Dakota’s Unmanned and Autonomous industry.
  • Significantly increasing research and educational revenues by leveraging the University’s Unmanned and Autonomous expertise.
  • Establishing and growing strong research relationships with federal civilian and defense agencies leading to large funding programs opportunities.
  • Maintaining and expanding strong relationships with state government, including the Department of Commerce.
  • Creating strong university-private sector UAS partnerships.
  • Helping to drive UAS company formation, recruitment/relocation and retention of companies in the Grand Forks region.
  • Coordinating University Unmanned and Autonomous Systems Activities:
    • Work closely with all University faculty and staff to coordinate activities for maximum efficiency and impact.
    • Work with Institute technical leads to enhance collaboration between the different functions of the Institute.
  • Brand UND as the National Unmanned and Autonomous Systems University
    • Work to establish UND’s primacy as the premier Unmanned and Autonomous Systems institution in the country.

Specific goals include:

  • Building university-government and university-business partnerships by matching university assets in basic and applied research, technology development and workforce development with government and industry needs, leading to substantial increases in research funding and tuition revenues.
  • Attracting UAS and related companies to North Dakota, leading to substantial increases in the number of companies and UAS jobs.

Expectations: Must be detailed and accurate; have strong interpersonal skills; communicate effectively, both verbally and written; work respectfully with university faculty, staff and external partners; demonstrate excellent problem-solving skills and critical analyses abilities; be able to travel.

Minimum Requirements:

  • Master’s degree in a related technical or business discipline.
  • Extensive experience in the Unmanned and Autonomous Systems industry, including industry technology and workforce needs, as well as future trends in each.
  • Extensive existing relationships with Unmanned/Autonomous systems industries and government agencies using and/or developing these systems.
  • Extensive experience with federal funding agencies, both civilian and defense.
  • Must have a valid driver’s license.
  • Successful completion of Criminal History Records Check

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Supervisory experience

For additional information, please visit the University of North Dakota Human Resources website:


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