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Published May 22, 2012, 06:36 PM

Experts in UAS Field at Grand Forks Summit as Drone Use Expands

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - Top experts in the unmanned aerial system field are in Grand Forks this week for the 6th annual UAS Summit.

By: David Schwab, WDAZ

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - Top experts in the unmanned aerial system field are in Grand Forks this week for the 6th annual UAS Summit.

This year's theme is "From the battlefield to the farm field."

The uses of UAS technology continue to grow. Even local law enforcement could very soon be using it to help do their job.

"The person just takes the aircraft and throws it forward. The airplane will just take off and fly away," Maynard Herting Jr. with the Unmanned Applications Institute said.

Herting is demonstrating how the very small UAS plane with just a three-foot wing span and weighing three and a half pounds can help local law enforcement do search and rescue.

"It gives you full motion video right to the ground station," Herting said.

Herting works for a Grand Forks Company called Unmanned Applications Institute. They help companies integrate and train in UAS technologies. It's just one of the business in the industry here at the UAS Summit in Grand Forks.

"It gives us all a opportunity to have conversation with all our partners in both industry and defense," UND President Robert Kelley said.

Air Force Major General James Poss says the Grand Forks area has the ground work in place to become one of the nation's leaders in the UAS industry and has a decent chance to become one of six national testing sites to help integrate commercial UAS use.

"I see that as being a great future. Particularly combined with the fantastic support that we get from state and local government and the universities here in North Dakota, I see a bright future," Poss said.

For Herting, that future is now as he plans on getting the tiny UAS planes in the air by working with the Grand Forks Sheriff's Department, which would be the first in the country to use them.

"A Sheriff in South Dakota was telling me that they really needed something like this to find a man that had fallen through the ice. It took them two and a half hours to find him, he was lying on top of the ice. They could communicate with him, but this could have found him in just a few minutes," Herting said.

Herting says the smale UAS planes cost about $50,000 and training could begin as soon as this fall.