Sen. Kevin Cramer, Rear Admiral Lorin Selby, chief of Naval research at the Office of Naval Research, and UND president Andrew Armacost spoke about the importance of technology and UAS advancement while headlining the UAS Summit & Expo’s second day Wednesday, Oct. 14, at the Alerus Center.

Cramer spoke for about 10 minutes about technology and how it pertains to the military and Grand Forks’ role in all of it.

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“The ecosystem that we talk a lot about that’s been created here, both intentionally and organically here in North Dakota, particularly in the Red River Valley and especially and specifically up here in the Grand Forks region, it’s really quite remarkable, and it’s quite unique and it is an edge,” Cramer said.

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Cramer introduced Rear Admiral Lorin Selby to the crowd, who spoke about why technological advancements to UAS systems are important to the military.

“The concept here is that we need to deploy small, mostly autonomous things,” Selby said. “We need to deploy that at scale, hundreds or maybe thousands of them, so big swarms and other ways of aggregating many different systems, and we need to be able to not go fast physically, although that may be ok, but adapt fast. Adaptation is a critical enabler of our survival as a species, and it’ll be a critical enabler of our survival as a war fighter.”

Selby brought up Buckminster Fuller, an architect and systems theorist, who coined what he called the "Knowledge Doubling Curve,” which theorized the time in which human knowledge grew was gradually compressing. He claimed that in 1900, human knowledge took about a century to double. By 1942, it took anywhere from 12 to 45 years to double and by 1982 it was 13 months.

Selby said now is the most important time in human history for people to invest their time and energy into science and technology.

“Today, a bunch of IBM researchers say that it’s one day,” Selby said. “Within one day, human knowledge is doubled. Even if that’s not exactly right, you can probably imagine that it’s probably pretty close."

Part of increasing human progress in technology includes drawing people into STEM fields, which Selby said may be one of the biggest keys to the future for the Navy and the military at large. He said he is doubling down on outreach to inner cities rural communities to try to realize their untapped potential.

“Why am I talking about STEM, a Navy guy?” Selby said. “Because if we don’t develop the STEM talent in this nation that can actually work for people like myself with a clearance, then we’re going to lose. We do not, today, develop enough American citizens with the degrees that we need to man the positions, whether it’s in government or it’s in academia, that we need to be able to take on these huge challenges I’ve talked about.”

UND President Andrew Armacost speaks during day two of the UAS Summit & Expo. (Jacob Holley/Grand Forks Herald)
UND President Andrew Armacost speaks during day two of the UAS Summit & Expo. (Jacob Holley/Grand Forks Herald)

UND President Andrew Armacost spoke next, and he said UND’s UAS ecosystem is “getting better all the time.” He thanked Cramer and other leaders for their partnerships with the university and the city.

Armacost also weighed in on discourse about changing “UAS,” which stands for “Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” to something more inclusive as to encourage the interest of other genders. He threw his vote in for a new acronym to some applause from the audience.

“When I think about a vehicle that has nobody in it, I think of my car,” Armacost said. “When I look at my insurance policy, there’s something that talks about the occupant of a car, and I think an occupant is probably representative of a person sitting inside of a vehicle, and when I think of unmanned vehicles, I actually think of unoccupied vehicles. So, if I’m going to vote for a change I think to be A, I think to be more inclusive, and B, more representative of what’s actually physically happening in these vehicles, I’ll cast my vote for ‘Unoccupied Aerial Vehicles’ or ‘Systems.’”