FARGO, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum today opened the fourth annual Drone Focus conference at the Fargo Civic Center by highlighting the strong collaboration that’s propelled North Dakota to the leading edge of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) industry.
“Collaboration around the UAS community we’ve built in North Dakota is going to help us attract new services and new jobs and unlock the enormous potential of unmanned aerial systems,” Burgum told conference attendees. “Your work is solving important challenges for the United States, and North Dakota wants to play a pivotal role in building this industry.”
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, who attended last year’s Drone Focus conference, recently announced North Dakota was selected as one of 10 sites nationwide for the UAS Integration Pilot Program. The program will shape the future of drone use by enabling agencies to work on policy that can safety advance UAS operations, including beyond visual line of sight, flights over people and night operations.
Burgum noted the North Dakota Department of Transportation is leading the pilot program with 36 public, private and tribal partners, building off the success of the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in Grand Forks. The state has invested more than $43 million to advance UAS research and development, helping to attract over 20 UAS-related companies to the region.
Burgum also recognized federal partners in attendance at Drone Focus, including Derek Kan, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s under secretary of transportation for policy; Finch Fulton, the USDOT’s deputy assistant secretary for transportation policy; and Sen. John Hoeven.
Drone Focus continues Thursday with Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford among the morning’s speakers. Sanford chairs the Northern Plains Unmanned Systems Authority, which oversees the test site.