UND returns to world’s largest conference for autonomous technology

North Dakota, UND showcase state’s UAS ecosystem while also sponsoring drone racing event in Florida

At the AUVSI Xponential conference in Orlando, Florida, last month, the University of North Dakota and others from the state of North Dakota are shown at an exhibit during the expo, which is one of the world’s largest UAS technology events. Image courtesy of the Division of Research & Economic Development.

The University of North Dakota was once again front and center at Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Xponential conference at the Orange County Convention Center April 25-28 in Orlando, Florida.

As the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of uncrewed systems, robotics and autonomy, AUVSI says Xponential is “the place to share ideas, navigate changing policies, experience new innovations, and strike up new partnerships.” The conference featured UAS technologies from energy to transportation, construction to defense, and medicine to agriculture.

Naomi Hansen

According to Naomi Hansen, director of corporate partnerships fo UND’s Division of Research & Economic Development, “Representatives attended from many areas across campus – including the Division of Research & Economic Development, the Research Institute for Autonomous Systems (RIAS), the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, the College of Engineering & Mines, the College of Arts & Sciences and the Center for Innovation.

“We also had representation from North Dakota Commerce, Indian Health Service, City of Grand Forks, and the Northern Plains UAS Test Site,” she said.

In addition to being an AUVSI exhibitor, UND was the platinum sponsor for the 2022 Drones in School National Championship, a MultiGP STEM Alliance event. The championship was held in conjunction with Xponential and consisted of middle school and high school teams from around the nation competing in both drone racing and a capture-the-flag event.

“We also hosted a successful industry and alumni networking reception in partnership with the UND Alumni Association & Foundation, the North Dakota Department of Commerce, and the Northern Plains UAS Test Site,” Hansen said.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to showcase the great research taking place within the University and the state of North Dakota,” she added. “We were able to form new relationships, learn about emerging technologies, and connect with industry and university partners.”

UND attendees to the 2022 AUVSI Xponential conference offered their thoughts on the event.

John Mihelich, Vice President for Research & Economic Development

John Mihelich

It was great to see the team from UND and North Dakota in action at AVUSI. Our sustained participation at AVUSI is one avenue for building relationships and showcasing UND’s expertise in uncrewed vehicles, augmented and autonomous systems, and a range of national security R&D and modernization interests.  We demonstrate our commitment to research and development and also help promote the university and the state to an international audience.  Our collaboration — within the university, with the Northern Plains Test Site, with the Department of Commerce, and with industry partners in the state of North Dakota, and the countless conversations between our team members and other AVUSI participants reveal how we are  positioning the university as the strongest partner we can be — building our capacity and pursuing cooperative possibilities.

The expo floor at AUVSI’s Xponential conference in Orlando, Florida, held last month at the Orange County Convention Center. Image courtesy of the Division of Research & Economic Development.

Brad Rundquist, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences

Brad Rundquist

The networking reception was a wonderful way for me to connect and start to build relationships with dedicated and proud UND alumni now living in central Florida.

I’m working with UND colleagues from several colleges and the School of Graduate Studies to propose an academic program in human-machine teaming. I attended several presentations on trusted artificial intelligence that truly expanded my understanding of the state-of-the-art work being done in industry and government on that important topic.

 

Robert Kraus, dean of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, visits with Xponential attendees near UND’s exhibit at Xponential. Image courtesy of the Division of Research & Economic Development.

Mark Askelson, RIAS Executive Director, Associate Dean for Research, John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences

Mark Askelson

AUVSI is always tremendous for us, as it is a great event for developing new opportunities and expanding existing ones.  We are incredibly fortunate to have such excellent partnerships not only within our ND ecosystem, but across the country with government, academia, and industry partners.  This year really stood out because of the opportunity to meet in person and to renew partnerships and friendships.  We are extremely fortunate to have such a devoted team that helps ensure our success.

Jordan Krueger, RIAS Research Manager

Jordan Krueger

AUVSI 2022 made history by incorporating a STEM Championship for the very first time. Eleven schools and over 160 participants showed to make the 2022 Drone in School – MultiGP STEM Alliance Championship an amazing event and drawing lots of spectator excitement. This event is the culmination of two years of hard work between the Collegiate Drone Racing Association, MultiGP and Drones in School. I was proud to represent UND while helping run the event. It was excellent to see faculty and staff from UND engaging with all the teams as well. The opportunity Paul (Snyder) and I had to present to the schools allowed us to reinforce that the determination and skill they bring to these events is exactly what we are looking for in education and industry and to continue on that path. We’re looking forward to Denver in 2023 and making this event bigger and better!

It was an especially great time at the networking reception, seeing lots of old friends and business partners in person. After two years of COVID, I feel like I am finally able to keep up those in person connections and receptions like this make this possible. Not to mention, the adrenaline pumping team building on the go kart track – can’t really ask for more than that. UND does receptions right!

UND hosted an industry and alumni networking reception in partnership with the UND Alumni Association & Foundation, the North Dakota Department of Commerce and the Northern Plains UAS Test Site. Image courtesy of the Division of Research & Economic Development.

Paul Snyder, Director of UAS Programs, John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences

Paul Snyder

The AUVSI conference is a highlight for the year providing so many opportunities to network with industry, answer questions about UND, and reconnect with accomplished UND alumni through the UND Industry & Alumni Networking Reception.

STEM event was great – Jordan did a great job.  It would be fun for UND to have a smaller networking event with these students, to get to know them, tell them about UND etc. So glad we supported the effort!

Editor’s note: Naomi Hansen contributed to the reporting and photography for this story.