John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences

News and information from the UND John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences.

Unmanning the Traffic in the Sky

Officials meet on campus to discuss Grand Forks’ future with the new technology. by Brett Lindenberg March 23, 2006

The arrival of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) at Grand Forks Air Force Base could be just the beginning in a number of financial and academic opportunities for UND and its students.

The Red River Valley Research Corridor Action Summit, held Wednesday at the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, drew members from the U.S. government, academic world and the private sector together to discuss the increasing applications of UAVs in a changing world.

“This has brought together all the movers and shakers in UAVs,” said Bruce Smith, dean of the aerospace school.

Speakers at the Red River Valley Research Corridor Action Summit included: U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., N.D. Gov. John Hoeven and experts from the private sector involved in the UAV field.

Smith stressed the importance of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for UND, predicting it “will become the overwhelming choice for non-passenger aviation within the next 10-15 years.”

UAVs should be thought of more as a system and not a vehicle, said Smith. Each UAV takes six pilots and 20 aircraft support personnel to operate and could create many new jobs in the area.

Michael Keaton, a speaker at the summit from Raytheon and an industry leader in special mission aircrafts, explained how UAVs are currently being used to change modern warfare in the countries of Iraq and Afghanistan. UAVs are also helping troops in Iraq with surveillance and planning of air strikes.

They can perform airborne surveillance for over 20 hours per mission, provide full-motion video, and laser targeted design.

“You’re saving lives,” said Keaton, because these UAVs are unmanned.

But, UAV’s applications apply elsewhere than the just the battlefield. They have been used for crop seeding and weather forecasting in other countries.

Dorgan agrees that UAVs have potential commercial and research applications for North Dakota.

“This action summit was a way to bring all the interested parties and experts in the UAV industry together in one room to brainstorm how we in North Dakota can make sure we don’t miss the boat on all of the opportunities for economic and research endeavors related to the arrival of the UAV mission,” said Dorgan.

Dorgan hopes that what is being done at the summit will attract more interest from the private sector for North Dakota.

U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., speaks at the Unmanned Aviation Systems summit at Clifford Hall on Wednesday. Military and university officials also talked about Grand Forks’ upcoming role in the new technology’s use. ________________________________________