Thanks to Brian Huberty for providing this update on a recent WGL “field trip” to Grand Forks, ND.
ASPRS members from Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota drove through brisk winter weather (30-40 mph winds and temps below zero) to meet in Grand Forks, North Dakota which is now a center for high-end Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). Members met at the University of North Dakota (UND), Aerospace Building Thursday afternoon with a welcome by Assistant Dean, Ken Polovitz. UAS Director, Alan Palmer gave an overview on how the newly emerging UAS technologies and program dovetails with one of the largest aircraft flight training programs in the world. UND Aerospace has over 170 manned aircraft for flight instruction training university and international pilots including flight simulators.
The afternoon was wrapped up with a tour led by Trevor Woods at the UND Aerospace UAS Flight Operations Center at the Grand Forks Airport which features the Boeing Insitu ScanEagle. UND is researching for example how to integrate UAS systems into the National Airspace.
The evening was spent at a rustic restaurant across the river in East Grand Forks where Dr. Bradley Rundquist, UND Geography gave an overview of the North Dakota AmericaView program. He depicted with Landsat imagery the massive changes in the Devil’s Lake region where rising lake water levels have swallowed up many farms in the region due to climate change. This was followed with a short UAS history lesson by Brian Huberty. He showed a series of photographs taken from 1957 to 1965 by Walter Halloran who ran the U.S. Army Combat Surveillance programs in West Germany and in Arizona.
The next day was slightly warmer and less windy where the group met at the Grand Forks Air Force Base for a tour of the Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations Center and the newly established USAF 69th Observation Wing at the Grand Forks Air Force Base. The group was chauffeured by USAF MSgt Agustin Pascual to a warm welcome by Director of Air Operations, Max Raterman who gave an overview of the manned and unmanned operations which includes training and monitoring the border. Deputy Director, Dave Fulcher gave a more in depth technical view of the operations as well as leading the tour of their operations center, flight operations trailers and their General Atomics Predator B UAS.
The tour was wrapped up with a visit to the USAF 69th Observation Squadron next door which oversees all Global Hawk operations. Capt. Ben Davis illustrated how the newly established squadron is supporting operations all over the world with the Global Hawk. The Northrop Grumman Global Hawk RQ-4 UAS has three basic configurations of EO/IR, radar and telecommunications. ASPRS members were able to see firsthand a couple of the latest radar equipped RQ-4 Block 40 aircraft. All attendees were impressed by the size of the aircraft along with its automated design, endurance and reliability.
ASPRS attendees from the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Transportation, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, USGS, KMB, Inc. and others all want to thank the University of North Dakota, the Customs Air and Marine Operations and the USAF 69th Observation Squadron for hosting a bunch of frozen remote sensors gain a better understanding of high tech UAS platforms.