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Policy: Technology

For North Dakota, drones a possible growth market

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Photo - FILE - In this May 14, 2013 file photo, one of several small drones designed for use by law enforcement and first responders is shown at University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, N.D. Michael Huerta, the Federal Aviation Administration administrator, flew to Grand Forks on April 21, 2014 to announce his agency had granted North Dakota a two-year certificate to begin flying a small drone. The announcement made North Dakota the first of six test sites that can begin flying missions.  (AP Photo/Minnesota Public Radio, Dan Gunderson, File)
FILE - In this May 14, 2013 file photo, one of several small drones designed for use by law enforcement and first responders is shown at University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, N.D. Michael Huerta, the Federal Aviation Administration administrator, flew to Grand Forks on April 21, 2014 to announce his agency had granted North Dakota a two-year certificate to begin flying a small drone. The announcement made North Dakota the first of six test sites that can begin flying missions. (AP Photo/Minnesota Public Radio, Dan Gunderson, File)
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Forget the North Dakota energy boom. How about a drone boom?

State and federal officials have big hopes for the growth of what are known as unmanned aircraft systems. And experts say North Dakota is well-positioned to take advantage of its attributes. Those include a first-of-its-kind academic program, an established military presence, a financial commitment and favorable airspace conditions.

Ben Gielow is general counsel for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a group that promotes unmanned systems and robotics. He says North Dakota decided years ago to focus on the issue, and is now a leader in drone development.

The push to make North Dakota a drone nexus is expected to progress next month, when the first test flights of an FAA-approved drone research program will take off.

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