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UND rolls out plan for integrated drone institute

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UND is creating an integrated center to combine multiple areas of unmanned aerial systems expertise on campus.

According to a news release, university President Mark Kennedy has forwarded a plan to establish a UND Institute for Unmanned and Autonomous Research. Such an institute would work with UAS functions such as physical flying and testing as well as data capture and management. It would also focus on developing national UAS policy and fostering new innovations in the field.

In order to make progress in areas spanning flight, cybersecurity and public policy, the institute would be drawing on faculty from a range of disciplines at the university, according to the release.

Kennedy stated UND has "over a decade of leadership" in UAS through the work of the UND John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences and the UND Center for Innovation. But even with that history, he said "competition for leading this exploding field is growing, and we must step up to a new level."

The institute is still in its early stages, but the university has posted a job listing for an executive director of the center, which would fall under the oversight of Grant McGimpsey, UND vice president for research and economic development.

Specific goals for the position include building partnerships between UND and entities in business and government. The role would also be aimed at "attracting UAS and related companies to North Dakota."

The release stated the institute would be governed by a board composed of members of the North Dakota UAS community. That governing body would be paired with a corporate advisory board to be chaired by Terri Zimmerman, CEO of Fargo-based technology companies Packet Digital and Botlink. The latter company provides a drone operations platform for industry applications.

Story written by Andrew Haffner and published by Grand Forks Herald

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