NDSU research plays role on North Dakota’s unmanned aerial vehicle team

North Dakota’s two major research universities are expected to play key roles as the state competes to become one of six Federal Aviation Administration test sites for unmanned aerial vehicles and systems to be named by the end of the year.

The team for the Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems includes NDSU, University of North Dakota, the North Dakota Office of the Adjutant General, North Dakota Aeronautics Commission and North Dakota Department of Commerce. Representatives from the group were among 600 exhibitors at the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference in Washington, D.C., Aug. 12-15.

At the conference attended by some 8,000 people from 40 countries, NDSU promoted its research expertise in electronics, coatings, transportation and precision agriculture.

Attendees were generally interested in knowing more about the research areas at NDSU that are relevant to UAVs, and specifically about how UAVs will be utilized in agriculture operations,” said Aaron Reinholz, associate director for electronic technologies at NDSU’s Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering, who attended the conference as part of the NDSU unmanned aircraft systems team.

The state of North Dakota has identified unmanned aircraft systems as a significant thrust area for economic development in the state. Agriculture is expected to be the biggest commercial application for unmanned aerial vehicles. The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International has forecast that 590,000 unmanned aircraft systems will be purchased for agricultural applications between 2015 and 2021. A study by Frost and Sullivan produced similar statistics.

The North Dakota team attended the conference to promote the state as a go-to place for research, development and testing of unmanned aircraft systems. “We hoped to raise visibility and awareness of the opportunities in the state and more specifically, the capability that NDSU can provide to this emerging technology sector,” said Reinholz.

NDSU expertise in this research area includes transportation, agriculture, electronics, coatings and computational science. More than 63 media articles about the conference mentioned North Dakota, and of those, 73 percent of the articles mentioned North Dakota’s research institutions, according to an analysis by the North Dakota Department of Commerce.

NDSU is recognized as one of the nation’s top 108 public and private universities by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.

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