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Trans-Atlantic UAS Flight from N.D. to United Kingdom
North Dakota Ag Connection - 07/11/2018

Gov. Doug Burgum and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, along with U.S. Senator John Hoeven, Tuesday 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.

"It's entirely appropriate that this trans-Atlantic flight is taking off from Grand Forks, because we're training U.K pilots here at Grand Sky. We welcome the beginning of this exciting milestone, the first of its kind for a medium-altitude UAS," Hoeven said. "This achievement truly highlights North Dakota's unique UAS ecosystem, as well as the global impact of the work being done at the Grand Sky Technology Park, where General Atomics trains U.K. pilots. This technology holds potential benefits for a wide range of sectors, from agriculture and energy to defense and border security, and we're working to ensure our state continues leading the way in developing these capabilities."

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