Aerospace & Defense

ND: North Dakota Lands its First UAS Manufacturing Venture

16 Feb, 2015

Gov. Jack Dalrymple joined executives from ComDel Innovation, Inc. and Altavian in announcing the companies’ agreement to manufacture unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and UAS components at ComDel’s high-tech manufacturing plant in Wahpeton.

“This partnership represents another important step in our ongoing work to grow North Dakota’s UAS industry and to become a national hub for UAS manufacturing, research and development,” Dalrymple said. “The UAS industry holds great promise with boundless opportunities for future applications.  As one of only six national test sites, North Dakota is well positioned to attract UAS-related investment and jobs, to lead the nation’s quest for the safe integration of the technologies and to further diversify our state economy in the process.”

Dalrymple and ComDel Innovation President Jim Albrecht announced ComDel’s UAS partnership with Florida-based Altavian during a news conference today at the state Capitol in Bismarck. They were joined by Thomas Rambo, COO of Altavian. Based in Gainesville, Fla., Altavian provides unmanned aerial systems and associated data collection services with applications in the fields of precision agriculture, infrastructure analysis, natural resource management and conservation for government, commercial and research-based customers.

“We are excited to be working with Altavian and doing our part to help round out North Dakota’s offerings to the UAS industry,” Albrecht said. “We look forward to moving the relationship forward and seeing what is in store for UAS technology in North Dakota.”

Depending on sales, Albrecht estimates an additional 10 to 20 employees may be added to work on this project during the next two years.  Altavian plans to hire a few employees from the local community to help manage the partnership.

ComDel Innovation is a precision manufacturer that integrates all aspects of product development. ComDel’s manufacturing services include precision component fabrication, molding, tooling and stamping dies, injection molding, metal stamping, assembly operations and metal finishing.

"North Dakota is presenting Altavian with the opportunity to grow in a number of ways including an opportunity to refine and scale our manufacturing process, to engage the universities and corporations with research and development and to expand our market presence,” Rambo said.  “The opportunity to partner with Research North Dakota and the Northern Plains FAA UAS Test Site will strengthen the UAS industry in the state. Altavian is fully committed to thrive in North Dakota. The first aircraft coming off the line at ComDel are slated to remain in North Dakota at research institutions and North Dakota based companies.”

Gov. Dalrymple led the state’s efforts to establish a national UAS test site in North Dakota and to establish North Dakota as a national hub for UAS research and development.

In May 2013, Dalrymple formed the six-member Northern Plains Unmanned Aerial Systems Authority (NPUASA) which was successful in landing one of only six national UAS test site designations approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.  The NPUASA is chaired by Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley.

In April 2014, North Dakota’s Northern Plains UAS Test Site was the nation’s first to be FAA certified as ready to begin the work of integrating unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace.  The state has invested more than $20 million to establish a national UAS test site; to support the development of Grand Sky, a UAS and aviation park located at the Grand Forks Air Force Base and to advance UAS research and development.