Burgum, Sanford applaud historic launch of trans-Atlantic UAS flight

Tuesday, July 10, 2018 - 1:30pm

BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford today applauded the launch of the first trans-Atlantic flight of a medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft from the Grand Sky commercial UAS business and aviation park.

The MQ-9B SkyGuardian remotely piloted aircraft, owned by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., took off today from the company’s Flight Test and Training Center near Grand Forks and will fly to Royal Air Force Fairford in Gloucestershire, United Kingdom.

“Today’s historic takeoff reaffirms North Dakota’s position as a national and global leader in UAS testing, with the state investing more than $43 million so far in advancing UAS research and development. Congratulations to General Atomics and Grand Sky on this momentous flight,” Burgum and Sanford said in a joint statement.

The Burgum/Sanford administration has supported efforts to expand and advance North Dakota’s UAS industry. Sanford, who chairs the Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Authority, joined U.S. Department of Transportation officials and others in May as Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced North Dakota as one of 10 sites selected nationwide for the Federal Aviation Administration’s UAS Integration Pilot Program, aimed at safely integrating drones into the national airspace. The North Dakota Department of Transportation is managing the pilot program in partnership with the Northern Plains UAS Test Site and other partners and stakeholders from across the state.

Burgum also formed a UAS Detection and Counter-UAS Task Force last year to support development of technologies to detect UAS and counter the nefarious use of UAS, a rapidly growing field.