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Pentagon drone tests may someday take place at Grand Sky

Mar. 11—GRAND FORKS — Grand Sky aviation park may host military drone research and development efforts, if a bid submitted by Grand Forks County goes through.

The county plans to submit a final proposal for the $7.5 million Department of Defense, according to County Administrator Tom Ford, with negotiations expected to follow. He added that in this point in the process, the project is largely conversational — nothing has been decided, and he doubts the county would receive the full dollar amount. He said he’d like to see a contract with the federal government go before the the County Commission in April.

“I’m confident that everything’s going to work out,” Ford said.

 Under the terms of the potential agreement, the Pentagon would contract with the county to manage funding for small drone applications testing at Grand Sky, which is located on land leased to the county from Grand Forks Air Force Base under a joint use agreement.

The county would then contract with Grand Sky to manage the Pentagon’s task orders with partners like the Northern Plains UAS Test Site.

“When there’s new platforms, new systems that the military wants to use, they want to make sure they can be swiftly operated and swiftly integrated,” Ford said.

The county has been pursuing the contract for “about a year,” Ford said, and has been in conversation with the Office of the Secretary of Defense on how the federal government can use the infrastructure already in place at Grand Sky since at least November 2022.

Unlike other entities that contract with Grand Sky directly, like Northrop Grumman and General Atomics Aeronautical, the DoD will contract with the county, which will then subcontract out to Grand Sky. A similar arrangement with the State of North Dakota has existed for some time.

While counter-UAS testing was considered in an earlier proposal to the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense, Ford said that the proposal that will be sent this week will not involve weapons testing.