Picture of Terry Sando
Director, UAS Sector Development

Terry Sando

Let's talk about how Grand Forks can help launch your UAS company.

Contact me:
Direct | 701.738.0009

Grand Forks boasts open skies for aviation, UAS success

The region has a rooted history of aviation excellence with nationally recognized higher education programs training pilots, air traffic controllers, maintenance professionals, and more. And now, Grand Forks is the hub of North Dakota’s unmanned aerial systems/UAS test site, leading the way on exciting research and industry development.

The Grand Forks Advantage

  • Unencumbered air space is suitable for training and testing.
  • There is access to robust network of knowledgeable personnel.
  • The community has a demonstrated commitment to aerospace research, training, and support.
  • The region is committed to supporting the U.S. Air Force’s Grand Forks Air Force Base, which is one of our leading employers and a stellar example of public-private partnerships.
  • Grand Sky, the nation’s first UAS business & aviation park is redefining unmanned systems operations. Tenants include leading unmanned innovators Northrop Grumman and General Atomics.
  • The University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences is the country’s preeminent flight training program and one of a handful to offer a bachelor’s degree in aviation.
  • Northland Community & Technical College supports the industry with maintenance training programs that are preparing airline and unmanned aerial system professionals.

UAS Research and Testing


The possibilities for UAS-related development are endless. In 2013, North Dakota was designated by the Federal Aviation Administration to be one of six test sites for UAS integration into the national air space. We were named the first operational test site.

New research is continually being conducted into the ability and effects of UAS, which is leading to the development of new technologies, applications, and commercialization opportunities. The University of North Dakota, the state’s leading research university, is committed to research endeavors that support the UAS evolution.

  • Software Development
    UAS, ground and operations stations, and many associated components, require custom software to address specific needs or processes.
  • Engineering
    UAS engineering needs include sensors, payloads, and component design and testing. Engineers also work to seamlessly integrate new technologies into and onto UAS and related components.
  • Human Factors
    Human capability, stability, performance, and control must be studied and monitored in order to effectively use UAS technology. Studying the human factors helps optimize operator performance and reduce human error, as well as monitor the physical and psychological effects on the human body.

UAS Education & Training


In the Grand Forks region you will have direct access to foster partnerships with the nation’s leading UAS education and training institutions and organizations in order to strategically use and test your products and services. Through training programs in the Upper Great Plains, you will have properly trained, educated, and highly valuable UAS employees with the Midwest work ethic widely touted as the nation’s best and most productive.

  • UND Center for UAS Research, Education & Training.
    This conduit between private industry and UAS researchers promotes commercialization of new UAS-related products and services while bringing new UAS ventures to North Dakota. UND is the first school in the nation to offer a degree program in UAS operations. Strong partnerships with the US Air Force, Federal Aviation Administration and other federal agencies provide valuable experiences to students.
  • Northland Community & Technical College
    NCTC’s UAS Maintenance Training program is the nation’s first training program to support UAS vehicles and ground control stations. Imagery analysis and geospatial intelligence training programs launched in 2012-13 and are the nation’s first programs designed to prepare individuals to review and analyze data collected from systems on unmanned vehicles.
  • Lake Region State College
    In Devils Lake, North Dakota, a unique Simulator Maintenance Technician program is providing hands-on training in computer systems, digital and solid state electronic devices, printed circuit troubleshooting, and a variety of other systems essential to simulator operations.

UAS Operations


Unencumbered air space over the upper Great Plains makes the Grand Forks region an optimal location for UAS operations. Strong public-prive partnerships enhance opportunities to conduct UAS flying missions.

Along with the Grand Forks Air Force Base and regional colleges and universities, UAS related organizations and businesses have developed in the region and now offer their expertise, service, and partnership to other UAS related businesses.

The U.S. Air Force and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have established UAS missions from the Grand Forks Air Force Base. Northrop Grumman, the world’s leading UAS technology, has operations in Grand Forks supporting the U.S. Air Force Global Hawk program. General Atomics, another leading UAS manufacturer, supports U.S. Customs and Border Protection operations.

The state is designated one of six Federal Aviation Administration UAS integration test sites, which  will open new opportunities for unparalleled industry growth.


UAS Fabrication 


Whether you need to develop a prototype or mass produce your product, the Grand Forks region will support UAS fabrication demands.

The Grand Forks advantages are clear: specialized workforce, central location, leading research and testing resources, and production companies ready to work with you to support your growth. Expanding into the region will position your business with other innovative companies on the cusp of this niche market.

Look at Grand Forks for:

  • Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS)
  • Precision machining
  • Electronics
  • Coatings
  • Test equipment
  • Composites
  • Prototyping
  • Sensors and communication