The Air Force, Grand Forks County and Grand Sky Development Co. on Wednesday celebrated the execution of the enhanced use lease — and the beginning of development — for the Grand Sky unmanned aerial systems (UAS) business and aviation park at Grand Forks AFB, N.D.

Grand Sky is expected to take advantage of the burgeoning unmanned systems industry, catering to organizations interested in taking advantage of the open airspace in the northern Plains for UAS research, testing, training and operations. In addition to growth in the use of UAS by federal agencies, commercial applications are projected to jump dramatically as the FAA opens up the national airspace to unmanned aircraft.

“Grand Sky will create hundreds of jobs and attract tens of millions in private investments as we establish a new home base for drones in the U.S,” said Thomas Swoyer Jr., president of Grand Sky Development.

The 217-acre park is the product of a 50-year lease between the Air Force and Grand Forks County. The county awarded a sublease to Grand Sky Development Co. to develop the project. The project offers 1.2 million square feet of hangar, office, shop, laboratory and data center space on a build-to-suit basis.

Construction is scheduled to begin this spring.

“Grand Sky will be the first commercial drone airport in the U.S.,” Swoyer said. “This unprecedented public-private venture between the Air Force, county and the private sector will allow government and private firms to have a home base as they fly their drones in North Dakota and around the country.”