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NCTC receives donated drone from Northrop Grumman

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David Hambleton, manager of advanced systems for Northrop Grumman Autonomous Systems, (left) shakes the hand of Northland Community and Technical College President Dennis Bona after the pair announced the donation of an drone from the company to the school Tuesday in Grand Forks. Photo by Brandi Jewett/Grand Forks Herald.2 / 3
Bat Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)3 / 3

Students in Northland Community and Technical College's unmanned aircraft systems programs will have a new resource available to them courtesy of a donation from a defense contractor.

The Thief River Falls school announced Tuesday it has received a Bat UAS and accompanying equipment from Northrop Grumman Corp. during the 2016 UAS Summit and Expo at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.

"It is substantial, it is very significant, and we are very grateful," NCTC President Dennis Bona said. "We look forward to taking it apart and seeing how it works and using it for the training of our technicians."

The Bat is classified as a medium-sized unmanned aircraft that can reach heights of 17,000 feet above ground level and fly for 18 hours at a time.

Along with the 250-pound aircraft, five semi loads of support equipment set to be delivered this week will be used by students at NCTC's aerospace campus. The 86,000-square-foot space features labs, classrooms and a hangar where more than 20 manned and unmanned aircraft are stored for training. NCTC has unmanned aircraft systems maintenance and imagery analysis programs as well as a maintenance program for manned airplanes.

"Without these partnerships, it's likely we wouldn't have a program," Bona said. "We rely greatly on our public-private partnerships. They provide us with guidance in terms of how the program grows and provide us the resources that we could not afford in the public sector."

This donation isn't the first from Northrop Grumman, which also gave a full-scale model of its most well-known aircraft, the Global Hawk, for use by NCTC and UND in 2011. The company also donated $10,000 to help start the Northland Aerospace Foundation in 2012.

"The leadership the local academic institutions have shown at UND and Northland College has given us the opportunity to promote research and development, training and a lot of other UAS-related logistics and operation capabilities," said David Hambleton, manager of advanced systems for Northrop's autonomous systems division.

It's a partnership that is likely to continue as Northrop Grumman is building a $10 million research and development facility about 70 miles west of NCTC's Thief River Falls campus. The building is part of Grand Sky, a technology park under construction at Grand Forks Air Force Base.

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