General Atomics signs deal to expand North Dakota facilities

By Patrick C. Miller | August 10, 2018

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. announced Thursday that it will expand the size of its Flight Test and Training Center at the Grand Sky unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) aviation and business park adjacent to the Grand Forks (North Dakota) Air Force Base.

Under the 10-year lease agreement, General Atomics will expand the area of its operations from the current 5.5 acres to 20 acres. The location provides access to the base’s 2,351-foot runway. Northrop Grumman, the other major tenant at Grand Sky, is also expanding its facilities at Grand Sky to support the Global Hawk UAS.

The Flight Test and Training Center west of Grand Forks conducts flight training operations and research activities using the MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1 Predator. General Atomics is expanding to support sensor testing, training and other development activities.

General Atomics CEO Linden Blue—who attended an event at the company’s Grand Sky facility with Kirstjen Nielsen, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary, and U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.—said the growth will benefit the company’s customers and strengthen its commitment to the Grand Forks community.

“We’ve worked hard to put in place the pieces to ensure our state is leading the way in UAS research and development,” Hoeven said. “The agreement reached today between General Atomics and the Grand Sky Technology Park is further proof that North Dakota is the place for all things UAS and we look forward to the opportunities and economic growth this will bring to our state.”

Thomas Swoyer, president of the Grand Sky Development Co., said, “Our vision from the beginning was to attract world-class companies to Grand Forks and help them grow their UAS businesses here. Today’s announced expansion certainly demonstrates that vision has become reality.” 

Hoeven, a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and the Homeland Security Appropriations Committee, hosted Nielsen’s visit, which was attended by U.S. Air Force and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials. He advocated using the Grand Sky facilities and the Northern Plains UAS Test Site to integrate UAS into the national airspace, develop counter-drone technology, strengthen border security and ease the nation’s shortage of UAS pilots.