General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) last month conducted its first unmanned aircraft system (UAS) flight at its new UAS Flight Training Academy at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., marking a major advance for the Grand Sky UAS business and aviation park.
Elected officials joined leaders from GA-ASI, the Air Force and Grand Sky last week to celebrate the launch of Predator A.
“This first flight represents a significant milestone for our new training academy, further demonstrating our company’s capability to conduct UAS training operations safely and seamlessly within the National Airspace System,” David Alexander, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI, said according to a press release.
GA-ASI’s training academy will provide flight training for international and domestic aircrews. Classroom and simulator instruction will take place at classroom facilities in the city of Grand Forks. Construction of a 16,000-square-foot flight operations center at Grand Sky is expected to be completed by spring 2017.
The academy, along with research and development that will take place at the aviation park, will help usher in the commercial applications of unmanned aircraft, said Thomas Swoyer Jr., president of Grand Sky Development Co.
“Right now, there’s still a lot of military focus on the users and the trainees, but we want to start going towards a commercial use for those aircrafts, start working with agriculture, energy industries, start doing infrastructure assessments using large unmanned aircraft,” Swoyer said, reported KVRR.
The Grand Sky project — the product of a 50-year lease between the Air Force and Grand Forks County for a 217-acre site — calls for 1.2 million square feet of hangar, office, shop, laboratory and data center space, with buildout scheduled to take seven years. The county awarded a sublease to Grand Sky to develop the project.
“Right here in North Dakota, we’re leading the way in UAS research and development as well as the training of the pilots of the future. We’ve worked to make the Grand Forks region a hub for UAS innovations, and with industry leaders like GA-ASI, Grand Sky is paving the way in UAS development,” said Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.).