Drones touted for economic development impact in Grand Forks

The Grand Forks region’s growing unmanned aircraft industry just might be the biggest lure — besides Grand Forks Air Force Base itself — in the base’s efforts to land a new air refueling mission.

A federal survey team will visit the base late this month to assess its potential to serve as the active-duty main operating base for the new KC-46A flying tanker.

Local and state officials are highlighting the base’s many assets, including its previous history with flying tankers, the new mission with the RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system, and the cluster of unmanned aircraft businesses and schools that have emerged nearby.

“The UAS has tremendous value, tremendous opportunity,” said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. “But it also enhances Grand Forks for a possible tanker base down the line. As long as we have a robust UAS mission, it keeps us in the game in the long run.”

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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