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Published February 12, 2011, 08:30 PM

UND UAS Center Of Excellence On Its Way

With the combined signatures of UND president Robert Kelley and Colonel Don Shaffer of the Grand Forks Air Force Base, UND pilots will get a more high-flying education.

It's a huge step forward for UND as they sign a lease agreement with the Grand Forks Air Force Base for a new UAS training center.

"This is one of the most exciting multidisciplinary operations and opportunities that we can possibly envision for the university," UND president Robert Kelley said.

Around $500,000 of upgrades and renovations will be taking place over the next five months to turn a building at the Air Force Base into the UND UAS Center of Excellence.

"We provide a unique situation, a cold weather testing ground for UAS and currently the only University in the world to offer an undergraduate unmanned aerial systems degree," Governor Jack Dalrymple said.

The money for the center comes, in part, from a Centers of Excellence Enhancement grant that Senator John Hoeven helped get while he was serving as governer. It will help with the build and purchasing of new unmanned aircraft simulators which UND will be some of the first to operate.

"If we're really going to make this the premiere center for UAS in the country and that's absolutely our intention. It's going to take all of us working together and leveraging our resources," Hoeven said.

The building will be a center for research, education and training, allowing students to train on two types of unmanned aircraft. The MQ1 Predator and the MQ Reaper.

"To be able to leverage all those technologies and experiences and lessons learned from here at Grand Forks Air Force Base, it's going to pay dividends beyond just UND," Colonel Don Shaffer said.

The new facility should be completed by this summer.