Cramer: ND is 2nd or 3rd choice for drone test site

It’s very likely North Dakota will be one of the six states to host a test site for unmanned aircraft, but it is also very likely not the Federal Aviation Administration’s top candidate, Rep. Kevin Cramer said this past week in Grand Forks.

The top candidate appears to be Alaska, he said.

Next best or third best appears to be North Dakota, home to Grand Forks Air Force Base and its unmanned aircraft systems, he said. “I’m optimistic about North Dakota.”

Cramer, R-N.D., bases his belief on background discussions with analysts working for the FAA, he said.

It’s a privilege he has as vice chairman of a House subcommittee that has held hearings on the test sites with the FAA, he said. “That position has given me a rather good view of the whole program.”

He expects the FAA to announce Alaska as a test site “fairly soon,” and it may be months before North Dakota is added to the list with a test site near Grand Forks.

Local leaders are pushing to get the area selected as a UAS test site because they believe it would bolster the UAS industry here, which has already received a leg up because of the presence of Global Hawk and Predator UAS at the base and a UAS research center at the University of North Dakota.

But there’s a big field of candidates to deal with. According to the FAA, it has received 25 applications from 24 states.

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