North Dakota reportedly wants to become a national hub for drones.
The state hopes to achieve this by building an extensive airport for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Northrop Grumman is the anchor tenant; the proposed scope is nationwide. “A pilot could be in Southern California and pilot the plane launched from North Dakota,” Tom Swoyer, who developed the project, told MarketWatch.
In addition, the state has geared up an educational pipeline related to drones. The University of North Dakota offers a bachelor’s in aeronautics with a major in Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations. Students who want to earn that degree must prove U.S. citizenship before enrolling in certain courses, because some of the technologies under study fall under International Traffic in Arms Regulations.
North Dakota, along with Nevada and a handful of other states, has clearance from the FAA to fly drones through designated airspace. Some North Dakota startups have taken advantage of the regulations to develop drones.
Despite North Dakota’s enthusiasm, it’s still early days for drones in the U.S. The FAA has promised regulations for commercial use of UAVs within a year; Amazon plans on launching a drone delivery system soon after that milestone. If Amazon’s efforts succeed, other companies will likely follow suit.
And if drones take off as a business proposition, that will mean more jobs for UAV pilots, software designers, and specialized hardware engineers.