Top of the pack

UND grad student wins national manuscript of the year with paper on evolving UAS regulations

Jonathan Nord

Jonathon Nord, a grad student in the College of Business & Public Administration, won this year’s national Pi Alpha Alpha Master’s Student Manuscript of the Year Award from the Washington, D.C.-based Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration. His winning thesis is titled “Diffusion of Ideas in UAS Regulation.” Image courtesy of Juan Pedraza.

Jonathon Nord, a graduate student at the University of North Dakota, recently took home top honors in this year’s national Pi Alpha Alpha Master’s Student Manuscript of the Year Award from the Washington, D.C.-based Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.

Nord’s winning thesis, titled “Diffusion of Ideas in UAS Regulation,” focuses on the evolving brave new world of autonomous systems regulation and integration into society.

“I chose UAS for my topic because, being from Grand Forks, I was familiar with this technology,” Nord said. “I knew that UAS technology was going to grow, and that sparked my interest at the policy level.

“We must solve many tough problems around UAS that affect all of us. My research showed me that it’s best to sit down and start constructive discussion to support changes, rather than always fight them, for maximum benefit with least amount of pain.”

Autonomous pioneers

UND has long been a leader in autonomous system and UAS policy development and society integration.

In 2012, UND made a bold and innovative move to form the country’s first UAS Research Compliance Committee in anticipation of federal plans to regulate UAS in terms of privacy concerns and other social issues. In May 2016, it was renamed as the Committee on Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research Ethics & Privacy to better reflect its mission, purpose, and core values. Part of the UND Division of Research & Economic Development, the committee is responsible for reviewing and approving all research using unmanned aircraft systems conducted by any members of the University including faculty, staff and students.

And just last week, UND researchers announced that they would be launching a new autonomous urban test bed on the main UND campus to promote the integration of UAS and other autonomous system into society. They’ll also set up an autonomous test range on the Ray Richards Golf Course, immediately south of campus, to provide ample space for students, faculty researchers and industry partners to learn, innovate and conduct research.

UND researchers also were instrumental in developing emerging detect-and-avoid technologies that have hastened the integration of unmanned systems into society in some areas.

“UND has been the launching pad for many pioneering advances in UAS technology,” UND President Mark Kennedy said. “By continuously pushing the envelope and reaching into the future, we will remain the leading University in all things UAS and benefit society at the same time.”

Nord—who graduated from Grand Forks Red River High School in 2012—earlier this year completed his Master’s of Public Administration at the UND College of Business & Public Administration (CoBPA). After transferring to UND from another school, he connected with the UND MPA program director Dana Harsell, who encouraged him to pursue the advanced degree.

His thesis advisors were Harsell and Robert Wood, from the CoBPA Department of Political Science & Public Administration.

Nord currently works at Altru Health Services in Grand Forks.

Nord credited Harsell for submitting his thesis to the awarding organization. Nord was invited to the group’s national conference in Atlanta, last month, to pick up his award.

About the authorJuan Miguel Pedraza

Juan Miguel Pedraza, is co-founder of STEMflash Media, which contracts with the UND Division of Research & Economic Development. With a multicultural background and fluency in six languages, Pedraza brings extensive experience in print and broadcast journalism; technical editing; and both public sector and private sector public relations, to his consultancy work with UND. Born in Spain and having spent part of his childhood in places such as Brazil, Pedraza received his bachelor’s degree in international studies from UND in 2008.

UND Today editor David Dodds contributed to this story.