Tenants of the Grand Sky technology park under construction on land rented from Grand Forks Forks Air Force Base will now have access to a runway for flying unmanned and manned aircraft.
The base and Grand Forks County signed a joint-use agreement 18 months in the making Wednesday that will allow commercial tenants of the tech park to use the base’s runway.
Adding the final signatures to the document during a ceremony held on base were U.S. Air Force Under Secretary Lisa Disbrow and Grand Forks County Commissioner Tom Falck.
“I would say this is leading edge,” she said of the agreement. “In fact, what’s impressed me in the last few days I’ve been here is the vision the state has.”
Disbrow has been touring the state, and officials close the Grand Sky project arranged for the agreement to be completed in time for her arrival. The under secretary was greeted Wednesday by state and local government officials and base personnel, all of whom praised the agreement and the opportunities it opens for businesses.
“This is an important endeavor today—expanding the utilization of the airspace here and moving forward with the quest of commercialization of unmanned systems,” Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley said. “That’s what North Dakota is about. This isn’t simply testing an idea. … It is about commercializing and utilizing unmanned air systems for the improvement of life here on this planet. And that’s real.”
The first use of the runway by a tenant is expected later this year, Grand Sky officials said in a news release. The honor will likely go to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., which is building a temporary hangar on the park site until its training facility is completed later this year.
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