Opportunities abound for NDSU research with unmanned aerial systems

The sky is the limit when it comes to research and business opportunities regarding unmanned aerial systems, commonly called UAS. That was the message March 25 as North Dakota State University hosted the Unmanned Aerial Systems Forum at the Fargodome.

The forum was a chance for the NDSU community and others to learn more about North Dakota’s Northern Plains Unmanned Aerial Systems Test Site recently designated by the Federal Aviation Administration and NDSU research activities related to the site. About 90 people participated in the forum, seeking more information.

North Dakota’s test site is one of six designated sites across the country. According to the FAA, the test sites were mandated by Congress and will conduct critical research into the certification and operational requirements necessary to safely integrate unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace during the next several years.

NDSU, University of North Dakota, North Dakota Aeronautics Commission and the Office of the Adjutant General are among the team partners for the state’s test site.

“Our attitude, work ethic and ability to bring two major research universities together with a variety of state agencies and organizations, and to become one of the nation’s leaders in unmanned aerial systems, is why in fact we are here today. A unique combination of factors will make North Dakota a national leader in UAS,” said NDSU President Dean L. Bresciani.

The forum highlighted the wide scope of NDSU research as it currently applies to UAS, including such topics as microelectronics technology, remotely sensed data, precision agriculture, transportation and materials such as advanced coatings.

“It’s an exciting time, with North Dakota being named one of the six test sites,” said Kelly A. Rusch, vice president for research and creative activity. “NDSU has positioned itself to have a very long research program based on the expertise we hold. When you look at the future of UAS as a tool, NDSU has quite a breadth of research to bring to the table.”

Rusch said she was excited to see a blend of NDSU faculty, higher education colleagues, government agency representatives and people from the private sector. “It’s interesting to see the cross-section of attendees and what dialogue can take place. When it comes to research and downstream applications, NDSU is an avenue for partnering with other entities.”

Through questions and information, the forum is seen as an important step in establishing collaborations and partnerships to spur economic development.

“Unmanned aerial systems represent a big growth potential for technology-based economic development and diversity for the state of North Dakota,” said Dennis Anderson, NDSU associate vice president for business development and industrial relations, noting the state’s test site showcases North Dakota’s strengths in agriculture, energy and other areas like transportation. “We see great opportunities to interact with all the manufacturers of agricultural equipment, technologies, software and electronics. We’ve got a very wide channel for opportunities to work with the private sector to promote economic development in the state.”

Other FAA-approved test sites included proposals from the University of Alaska, the state of Nevada, New York’s Griffiss International Airport, Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

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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