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Dalrymple: $5 million bolsters drone test site bid

GRAND FORKS -- North Dakota's bid to be one of six national test sites for unmanned aircraft will be bolstered with $5 million authorized by state lawmakers this past session, Gov. Jack Dalrymple said Thursday in Grand Forks as he signed a funding bill.

The Federal Aviation Administration has received about 50 applications for the six sites, he said. "This is the sort of thing the FAA will be looking for, that we can hit the ground running."

Of the funding, $1 million will go toward the project immediately, with the rest contingent on the agency selecting North Dakota for the test site, which would test technologies to allow unmanned aircraft to mix with manned aircraft systems.

FAA officials are expected to visit some of the top candidates this summer, with a final decision to be made by the end of the year.

"This is ground zero for the movement to promote UAS in this state," Dalrymple said. "I think we can safely say that designating Grand Forks as a test site area would be huge for the region."

The state's application indicates the test site would be a block of airspace over northeast North Dakota going as far west as the Devils Lake region.

Dalrymple signed the bill at the University of North Dakota, home of the Center for UAS Research, Education and Training.

"(The funding) is symbolic of what we are trying to do: make North Dakota the fastest-growing economy out of all 50 states," he said.

"I want to say 'thank you' to all the legislators that