Unmanned Aircraft Systems

In a State of Success

North Dakota has been at the forefront of shaping the UAS industry since 2005. Since that time the vision and efforts of many North Dakota leaders has positioned our region as one of the global leaders for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) research, development, and commercialization.

In 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that North Dakota would be one of six UAS test sites to focus on drone research and operations with the goal of integrating UAS into the national airspace system (NAS).

More recently, in 2018, the US Department of Transportation announced that North Dakota had been selected as one of ten participants in the UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP) and one of three participants selected for the UAS Traffic Management (UTM) Pilot Program (UPP). This makes North Dakota one of only three states to possess all three designations – UAS Test Site, IPP, and UPP.

The state of North Dakota, during the 2019 legislative session, appropriated $33 million to continue advancing the regional UAS ecosystem. Of that, $28 million supports a statewide Beyond Visual Line of Site (BVLOS) infrastructure build out. An additional $20 million was appropriated in 2021 to expand this technology to other areas in the state.

Building an Ecosystem

In the Greater Fargo Moorhead region, we are proud to support the growth of the larger UAS ecosystem through a robust pool of software and technology talent and a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem. By leveraging our capabilities as a world class developer and manufacturer of agricultural technology and equipment, the crossover potential where UAS meets agriculture is limitless. If there’s any place to create and develop innovative solutions in unmanned and autonomous systems and agriculture, it’s here.

  • The state’s “Legacy Investment for Technology (LIFT) program offers 0% interest loans to fund applied research, experimentation, or operational testing within the state’s target diversification sectors which includes UAS.
  • Partnerships with higher education institutions connect leading technology with industry and support talent development
    • SMART Farm at NDSU –
    • Center for Digital Ag. and Big Data – North Dakota State University (NDSU)
    • Second Precision Ag Degree Program in the country – North Dakota State University (NDSU)
    • First UAS Operations degree program in the U.S. – University of North Dakota (UND)
    • Research Institute for Autonomous Systems (RIAS) – A global leader in unmanned and autonomous systems research, application and policy development
    • UAS Maintenance Technician program – Northland Community and Technical College (NCTC)
    • National Center for Autonomous Technologies (NCAT) – Northland Community and Technical College (NCTC)
    • Associates Degree in Precision Agriculture – North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS)
  • Grand Farm – is an initiative led by Emerging Prairie that aims to capitalize on the region’s potential in the agriculture and technology industries. The end goal of the Grand Farm initiative is to create a fully autonomous farm that will impact the Fargo-Moorhead Community and beyond by developing new opportunities and accelerating change.
  • Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS) – operates across the state of North Dakota and beyond. The mission of the NPUASTS is to collaborate with FAA and industry partners to develop, systems, rules and procedures to safely integrate unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System without negatively impacting existing general or commercial aviation
  • Statewide BVLOS network – $28 million in infrastructure being built to enable drones across the state to fly Beyond the Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) of their pilots. This network would be the first of its kind anywhere in the world.
  • Fargo Air Guard 119th Wing – The 119th Operations Group operates the MQ-9 Reaper. The unit includes a Mission Control Element and Launch and Recovery Element and is comprised of three squadrons: 178th Attack Squadron, 119th Operations Support Squadron, and 119th Maintenance Squadron.

But don’t take our word for it. Check out the companies below to understand why Fargo Moorhead is a great place to build your business.