International unmanned systems conference gives UND global exposure
UND President Andrew Armacost, along with a cadre of school administrators and professors, attended the inaugural UAV Technology USA conference in Arlington, Virginia on Feb. 7-8.
GRAND FORKS — UND’s participation in an international unmanned systems conference allowed university administrators to showcase not only the research capabilities of the school, but the region’s UAS ecosystem.
UND President Andrew Armacost, along with a cadre of school administrators and professors, attended the inaugural UAV Technology USA conference in Arlington, Virginia on Feb. 7-8. Armacost was invited to chair the conference, which, unlike the annual UAS Summit & Expo in Grand Forks, was heavily attended by military officers from several nations, some of whom will be making an extended stay in the community for training purposes.
“It was a rich discussion with some amazing members of the UAV community, from the military to industry to universities,” Amracost said.
All branches of the U.S military were represented at the conference, as were members of the Canadian military, the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force and the Australian and German militaries.
Armacost said he was sought out during breaks by attendees who said they were impressed by the broad set of unmanned systems activities the university engages in, including how that research translates to space, and the importance of partnerships for that research.
“What became clear is that industry and university partners play a huge role in moving technology forward in this area,” he said.
Those partnerships may soon extend beyond technology development and training. A group of officers from the British Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force and their families are set to spend about 18 months in Grand Forks.
According to Robert Kraus, dean of UND's aerospace school, the officers will engage in flight training with drone manufacturer and defense contractor General Atomics, at a UND facility. Their families, however, may have the opportunity to study at UND — even if they have to leave before they can finish a course.
“The nice thing is that even if they don't finish while they're with us, because we have so many distance learning programs, they would be able to continue whatever programs or training that they would start, after they leave,” Kraus said.
Both Armacost and Kraus said the UAV conference enhanced the reputation of UND, as well as the region.
“I think the big thing that we got out of participating really was exposure, more exposure for UND and Grand Forks to the rest of these groups,” said Kraus. “Many of the people that were speaking were in headquarters-type jobs or commander positions, so when they're looking for somewhere to do training or to do testing … they now know North Dakota is available and open for them to come.”
Organizers have asked Armacost and UND administrators to attend the conference next year. It is likely it will become an annual event. Armacost said UND will have a presence at the conference, though he did not commit to acting as chair next year.
“That's for the planners to figure out who they invite to chair, but they did indicate that they would welcome me back in that role,” he said.