(GRAND FORKS, N.D.) – March 30, 2016 – Officials of the U.S. Air Force and Grand Forks (N.D.) County today signed a Joint Use Agreement (JUA) that will allow tenants at Grand Sky to launch and recover both manned and unmanned aircraft from military’s 12,351-foot runway at Grand Forks Air Force Base. Established in 2015, Grand Sky is the nation’s first unmanned aerial systems (UAS) business and aviation park. Small UAS flights commenced at the park in September 2015. Large UAS tenants, including General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. and Northrop Grumman, are expected to commence flights later this year.
The JUA is the result of an 18-month approval process and is a necessary step to allow shared use and responsibilities of the Air Force Base runway between the Air Force, Grand Forks County and Grand Sky. There are currently 13 JUAs throughout the Air Force. The JUA for the Grand Forks Air Force Base is unique in that it allows manned, unmanned and optionally manned commercial aircraft to utilize the runway. This access is expected to help speed the eventual introduction of large UAS into the national airspace, thus benefiting the entire industry.
Grand Sky Development Co. President Thomas Swoyer Jr. says that while small UAS will continue to have a key role within the unmanned aircraft industry, the integration of large UAS into national airspace is a critical step forward in the industry’s overall growth and development. “Large UAS’ offer a multitude of capabilities that can’t be matched by small UAS in terms of flight duration, range, payload capacity and payload types,” he says. “Additionally, the Grand Forks JUA allows use of the runway for training purposes, which will allow our tenants the ability to offer in-demand UAS pilot training and help supply the industry with a needed workforce.”
While small UAS operator SkySkopes has been conducting flights at Grand Sky since September 2015, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. Inc. is expected to be the first Grand Sky tenant to utilize the Air Force Base runway. The company is currently constructing a temporary hangar on site and is expected to begin training UAS flight crews from around the world at the Grand Sky site this summer. Additionally, Northrop Grumman is constructing a 36,000 square foot facility at Grand Sky, expected to be complete later this year, which will be used for UAS research and training. Additional tenants are will be announced throughout this year.
About Grand Sky
Grand Sky is a 217-acre business and aviation park focused on supporting the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) industry in North Dakota and the U.S. It is a development executed in partnership with Grand Forks County, N.D., and is located on Grand Forks Air Force Base. Grand Sky offers 1.2 million square feet of hangar, office, shop, laboratory and data center space available on a build-to-suit basis with financing available. For more information, visit grandskynd.com.