Grand Sky, the first and only fully operational civil unmanned aerial systems (UAS)-focused research and development park in the U.S., recently announced tenant General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. will significantly expand the company’s presence on the property. General Atomics leased space will be expanded from its current 5.5 acres to 20 acres, all located along Grand Sky’s coveted “beachfront,” which provides immediate access to Grand Forks Air Force Base’s 12,351-foot runway.

The company currently operates a Flight Test and Training Center in Grand Forks, with flight operations taking place at Grand Sky, in addition to other research activities. The company intends to use its expanded footprint at Grand Sky to support UAS aircraft and sensor testing, training and development activities.

“We’re excited to expand our footprint at Grand Sky as part of our Flight Test and Training Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota,” said Linden Blue, CEO, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.  “This growth, from 5.5 acres to 20 acres, will benefit our customers, as well as strengthen our commitment to the Grand Forks community as we further build out our test and training capabilities.”

Since its groundbreaking in 2015, Grand Sky has served as a leader in the emerging and rapidly expanding UAS industry. Its location on Grand Forks Air Force Base provides tenants with access to a 12,351-foot runway, making it unique in its ability to accommodate large UAS operations.

“North Dakota is not positioning to become a leader; it already is one” North Dakota Economic Development & Finance Division Director John Schneider said. “It is the best state to test drones in and has provided more than $43 million to advance UAS technology and applications.

Schneider points to the fact the state is collaborating with domestic and international organizations to build this emerging industry. “We are becoming the Silicon Valley for Drones,” he says.