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N.D. Supports Autonomous Tech; Grand Farm Gets Sabanto Tractor
North Dakota Ag Connection - 09/17/2021

Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford Thursday highlighted the state of North Dakota's continued support for the development and commercialization of autonomous technology as he joined officials in announcing that Chicago-based robotics company Sabanto has donated a tractor utilizing its autonomous platform to the Grand Farm project near Fargo.

"This is a great day for North Dakota and one of the most exciting days in the brief but impressive history of Grand Farm," Sanford said. "Today's announcement by Sabanto marks the next major step in proving the Grand Farm concept of autonomous agriculture and commercializing this technology to enhance farm operations while helping to solve our workforce shortage. The state is strongly committed to supporting these efforts to foster innovation, grow and diversify our economy and keep North Dakota on the cutting edge of agriculture."

The state has provided significant support for Grand Farm and the development of autonomous technology, as well as unmanned aerial systems (UAS), through several agencies including the Department of Commerce, Department of Transportation and North Dakota Information Technology. Sanford, who chairs the Northern Plains Unmanned Systems Authority, highlighted the state's now nearly $50 million investment in Vantis, a statewide network for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) UAS operations that will be the first of its kind in the nation and will support future operations in precision agriculture as well as other sectors.

Senator John Hoeven kicked off the Autonomous Nation Conference being held at Grand Farm and outlined how North Dakota is developing unprecedented autonomous capabilities with a global reach. Specifically, Hoeven highlighted two ongoing efforts in Grand Forks that will shape the future of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) operations:

Space Networking Center -- The center will support the Space Development Agency's (SDA) new low-Earth orbit (LEO) mission, which will serve as the backbone for all U.S. military communications across the globe.

o The senator is working as a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee to secure funding for the new center and link it with unmanned operations in the Red River Valley.

Laser Communications Demonstration -- The SDA recently awarded $6 million to General Atomics to demonstrate satellite to MQ-9 laser communications, which will utilize the LEO system.

o Utilizing lasers, rather than radio frequencies, enables transmissions between satellites and unmanned aircraft to use less power and be more secure against detection and interference.

o These capabilities could be used to enhance the MQ-9 mission flown by the North Dakota Air National Guard's 119th Wing in Fargo.

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