Funding launches work on North Dakota’s Grand Sky UAS park

By Patrick C. Miller | July 09, 2015

North Dakota’s Grand Sky tech park for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) on Monday received $5.6 million in state funding to begin infrastructure construction that will start next week.

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple came to Grand Forks to present a $5.6 million check to Tom Swoyer, president of the Grand Sky Development Co., and the Grand Forks County Commission. The funds were appropriated by the state legislature.

“We’ve had the real leaders in the industry commit to the Grand Forks Grand Sky park, and that’s everything,” Dalrymple said. “They have made very careful, very deliberate corporate decision that this is where they want to invest, where they feel they will receive the long-term support that they need to be successful.”

Swoyer said the $5.6 million Grand Sky received from the state was important in beginning infrastructure projects at the site. Next week, a contractor will begin construction on a fence to define the park space and enable controlled access to the site.

“We have three more RFPs (requests for proposals) on the street and due this week,” Swoyer said.  “Another one will go on the street to reconnect the high-speed taxiway from the alert pad to the runway. We’re going to move real fast. By Nov. 1 at the absolute latest—weather permitting—all this infrastructure will be in place. So most of these funds will be spent this summer.”

Dalrymple noted that in 2013, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration designated the Northern Plains UAS Test Site as one of its first UAS test sites and it was also the first in the national[l1]  certified for operation by the agency.

“All in all, the state of North Dakota has allocated more than $30 million so far to the establishment of the site, promotion of the part[l2]  and to advance research and development on UAS in North Dakota, including some important work at the University of North Dakota,” he said.

Bruce Gjovig, director of the University of North Dakota Center for Innovation, was among those who worked with Dalrymple and the North Dakota Legislature to get the Grand Sky funding approved.

“This grant was necessary because the county cannot tax federal land for infrastructure,” he said. “The grant from the state will pay for the infrastructure that can’t be recaptured through property taxes. This is one of the ways to get it kick-started and not make the cost prohibitive for the first tenants.”

Dalrymple noted that another $4.4 million in funding has also been appropriated by the legislature for future Grand Sky tenants that he expects to be announced soon.

“It’s a great time, and I enjoyed telling people today that we’re all part of building a new industry right here in Grand Forks, North Dakota, a new industry not only for our state, but for our entire nation,” he said.


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