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UND research, workforce development featured at UAS Summit Oct. 13-14

Event highlights opportunities for UAS technology in space

UND archive photo.

The University of North Dakota will play a major role in the 15th annual UAS Summit Oct. 13-14 at Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D., with activities ranging from presentations to panels to exhibits and special events.

“Whether it’s in aerospace, engineering, computer science, space studies, the arts and sciences, medicine or law, our university is uniquely equipped to train and educate well-rounded graduates in both highly technical fields and the broader policy issues,” says UND President Andrew Armacost. “UND’s participation in the UAS Summit is our chance to let the world know we are making a difference today as we prepare for the future.”

Produced by Grand Forks-based UAS Magazine, the UAS Summit is billed as “the upper Midwest’s premier unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) event.” The agenda features speakers with expertise on specific topic areas, such as the current state of the UAS industry, beyond visual line of sight operations and finding future uses for UAS in large and small operations.

Some of the speakers at this year’s UAS Summit include U.S. Senators John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer; North Dakota Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford; Col. Jeremy Fields, vice commander of the 319th Reconnaissance Wing at the Grand Forks Air Force Base; Jane Bishop, general manager of global surveillance with Northrop Grumman Corp.; and Rear Admiral Lorin Selby, chief of naval research, Office of Naval Research.

‘Paving’ the way

UAS and space will be the focus of a 7:30 a.m. breakfast panel Oct. 14 leading off activities on the summit’s second day. Terri Zimmerman, CEO of Fargo-based Botlink, will moderate the panel, which includes William Cromarty with Spire Global; Armacost; Robert Kraus, dean of UND John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences; Brian Tande, dean of UND College of Engineering & Mines; Brad Rundquist, dean of the UND College of Arts & Sciences; and Mark Askelson, executive director of UND’s Research Institute for Autonomous Systems (RIAS).

Armacost will be a featured speaker on Thursday, Oct. 14, at 9:50 a.m. when he discusses how technologies developed for the command and control of unmanned aircraft can be used to guide satellites in low-earth orbit. The title of the talk – “Thinking Outside the Atmosphere” – focuses on how missions related to national security and the burgeoning private-sector in space represent promising new prospects for the University in research and workforce development.

“The University of North Dakota is paving the way for space-based missions in North Dakota, becoming the first university to sign a memorandum of understanding with the United States Space Force,” said Dayna Bastian, program coordinator for UAS Magazine. “We are excited to discuss steps moving forward and other ways for space to exist in North Dakota and the UAS ecosystem that is continuing to grow in the region.”

Workforce opportunities

At noon on Oct. 14, Chris Nelson, associate dean in the UND Graduate School, will moderate a panel titled “Accelerate to Industry: A Discussion of Workforce Opportunities and Higher Education in the UAS Sector.”

“This panel is geared toward students – high school, undergraduates and graduates who can attend for free – looking for careers in the UAS sector,” Nelson said. “The idea is to give them a sense of the breadth of skills needed by the industry.

“The popular conception of UAS is somebody with a joystick flying a drone,” he added. “But there’s obviously a lot more that goes into getting that drone off the ground, getting it to do what it’s supposed to do, analyzing the data that the drone collects and everything else that goes into operations.”

Panelists include Askelson; Mark Hagerott, chancellor of the North Dakota University System; Nicholas Flom, executive director of the Northern Plains UAS Test Site; and industry representatives from six UAS companies. They will discuss workforce and research opportunities – present and future – in the UAS sector.

UND is exhibiting in the Expo Hall where students will be presenting posters of their UAS-related research. Renee Shelton, project manager at the UND Center for Innovation and president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), will be a moderator on the Innovation Stage, during which UAS entrepreneurs present their ideas.

The UAS Summit ends with a UND Aerospace networking reception from 4-5:30 p.m. Oct. 14 on the main floor of Robin Hall on campus. The reception also includes tours and drone racing in the flight lab.