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Associated Press, Published May 28 2013

Former ND Guard commander named to head test site

BISMARCK — A former North Dakota Air National Guard commander will be the director of a proposed unmanned aircraft systems test site that would be located in the northeastern part of the state, Gov. Jack Dalrymple said Tuesday.

Dalrymple announced that Col. Robert Becklund, who recently returned from a stint with an unmanned systems task force at the Pentagon, will lead the project.

"Bob's extensive experience in unmanned systems and his leadership in the North Dakota Air National Guard will be great assets as we advance the development" of the test site, Dalrymple said in a statement.

The state recently committed $1 million in promotional costs and $4 million in operational costs in an effort to become one of six Federal Aviation Administration sites in the U.S. to test civilian drones. The winners should be announced in December.

North Dakota has a strong resume. The Grand Forks Air Force Base and North Dakota Air National Guard have transitioned from manned planes to drones. And the University of North Dakota, long known for its aviation school, is the first college in the country to offer a degree program in unmanned systems.

"North Dakota is already a national leader in manned and unmanned aviation and would be an incredible asset to the FAA if chose as one of their UAS national test sites," Becklund said.

Dalrymple also established a Northern Plains Unmanned Systems Authority that will be chaired by Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley and include representatives from general aviation, UND aerospace and other agencies.


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.