Hoeven touts area UAS capability to executivesSen. John Hoeven was in Grand Forks on Wednesday with executives of an aerospace company he hopes could be a big part of a proposed unmanned aircraft systems campus at the Air Force base.
By: By Christopher Bjorke, Forum Communications, The Jamestown Sun
Sen. John Hoeven was in Grand Forks on Wednesday with executives of an aerospace company he hopes could be a big part of a proposed unmanned aircraft systems campus at the Air Force base.
Hoeven, R-N.D., toured UAS facilities at the Univeristy of North Dakota and the base with a team from Northrop Grumman, the maker of the Global Hawk drones stationed at the base.
While company executives have not committed to the 200-acre UAS campus, Hoeven said the purpose of the visit was to showcase cooperation among state and local groups to make the region a hub for UAS maintenance, training and other activity.
“We haven’t seen this kind of fully integrated approach they have in North Dakota,” said Thomas Vice, the incoming president of aerospace systems for Northrop Grumman, at a press conference at UND’s Center for Innovation.
The company has about 39 employees in Grand Forks.
Vice said Northrop Grumman was not ready to announce its intentions regarding the campus, but Hoeven described the company as a potential main tenant.
The campus would be designed to attract other public and private entities in the UAS industry.
Hoeven said the project could support up to 2,700 jobs.
“We’re going to continue pushing on every front, and the key is we have the team to do it,” he said.
The UAS campus will have to win some important approvals to reach its full potential.
First, the Defense Department will have to agree to lease the Air Force base land to Grand Forks County, which Hoeven expects within weeks.
The next important hurdle will be a designation from the Federal Aviation Administration as one of six national test sites for the integration of unmanned aircraft into airspace used by traditional aircraft.
That process will begin at the end of the year and conclude by next summer, when the test sites will be named, Hoeven said. North Dakota will probably complete with proposals from each state in the country for the designation.
“This is a competition and a competition we need to win,” Hoeven said. “We have the team to do it.”
Along with Hoeven and Vice were other Northrop Grumman executives, representatives from UND and Northland Community and Technical College and the area Base Realignment Impact Committee.
Hoeven will continue his sales pitch for Grand Forks’ UAS capabilities and the test site designation today Thursday when he is joined by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.