WASHINGTON, D.C.– U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in Grand Forks could be conducting their unmanned aircraft training in a new facility if a federal funding bill is signed into law.
U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced May 3 that the fiscal year 2017 Omnibus Appropriations bill includes $8 million in funding for a new facility for the agency to conduct its unmanned aircraft systems training near Grand Forks, allowing its training program to remain at Grand Forks Air Force Base.
“Due to growth on the base, CBP’s current UAS training facility is no longer available,” Hoeven said in a statement. “This funding is crucial in helping to keep the CBP UAS training program in North Dakota, which is important for the Grand Forks region as well as ensuring we have trained pilots to keep our border secure.”
Additionally, a news release from Hoeven’s office noted the senator also worked to secure strong support for UAS research, training and operations that will advance the integration of unmanned aircraft into the national airspace and support growing operations in North Dakota.
“UAS holds a great deal of promise for our nation, both in our economy and security, and we are building the future of this industry right here in North Dakota,” Hoeven said.
The provisions in the funding bill, which Congress is working to pass this week, include money for a number of UAS-related endeavors.
About $20 million in research funding through the Federal Aviation Administration would be granted by the bill, $10 million of that supporting the FAA’s UAS Center of Excellence, which is co-led by the University of North Dakota.
Another $15 million would support USCBP’s Predator drone fleet, part of which is stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base.
The U.S. Department of Defense’s UAS research could see continued funding of $7.3 million. The money would support investments in infrastructure and enhanced operations, such as the DASR-11 digital radar system at GFAFB.