GA-ASI Conducts UAS Training Academy First Flight

Flight Demonstrates Ability to Perform Commercial Operations in National Airspace

SAN DIEGO – 28 July 2016 – General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI), a leading manufacturer of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems solutions, today announced the successful first flight of a company-owned Predator® A at GA-ASI’s new Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Flight Training Academy in Grand Forks, North Dakota, on July 28th.

“This first flight represents a significant milestone for our new Training Academy, further demonstrating our company’s capability to conduct UAS training operations safely and seamlessly within the National Airspace System,” said David R. Alexander, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI. “Our first class is already underway, and students progressed to the flight training portion of the syllabus today.”

First flight festivities included remarks from U.S. Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), Cathy Peterson (Office of U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, D-ND); District Representative Randy Richards (U.S. Representative Kevin Cramer, R-ND); Al Anderson, Commissioner of North Dakota Department of Commerce; Tom Swoyer, President and Partner, Grand Sky Development Company; U.S. Air Force leadership; and GA-ASI executives.

“GA-ASI’s Flight Training Academy adds another layer to the good work happening at Grand Sky business and aviation park,” said Hoeven. “Right here in North Dakota, we’re leading the way in UAS research and development as well as the training of the pilots of the future. We’ve worked to make the Grand Forks region a hub for UAS innovations, and with industry leaders like GA-ASI, Grand Sky is paving the way in UAS development.”

“I congratulate CEO Linden Blue for the exceptional commitment he and his colleagues at GA-ASI have made to advance the groundbreaking frontier of unmanned aerial systems,” said Cramer. “Today’s first flight at the UAS Flight Training Academy in Grand Forks is another milestone showcasing an extraordinary partnership. GA-ASI, the Air Force, and local public and private organizations are developing Grand Sky into the world’s epicenter of the dynamic field of unmanned aerial systems.”

The mission of GA-ASI’s Training Academy is to provide safe, effective, and cutting-edge flight training for international and domestic aircrew operating the company’s aircraft. As an additional benefit, the Training Academy also can serve to augment U.S. Air Force RPA training programs. Training for GA-ASI aircrews began in early July 2016 and is now open for students external to GA-ASI as well. The Training Academy conducted its first Predator check flight on July 18th.

“This is yet another monumental day for Grand Sky, GA-ASI, North Dakota, and the entire UAS industry,” said Swoyer. “After four years of development, large commercial UAS are flying from Grand Sky, marking one more step toward fully integrating commercial UAS into the national airspace.”

Classroom and simulator instruction will take place at Training Academy classroom facilities located in the city of Grand Forks. Flight Instruction will occur at temporary facilities located at the Grand Sky UAS business and aviation park adjacent to Grand Forks Air Force Base. Construction of a state-of-the-art, 16,000 square-foot Flight Operations Center began in November 2015 and is expected to conclude in Spring 2017.

The Academy will operate year-round, create many new jobs in North Dakota, offer multiple courses, and provide training for dozens of students at a time.

High-resolution photos of Predator and artistic renderings of the GA-ASI UAS Training Academy are available to qualified media outlets from the GA-ASI media contact listed below. 

About GA-ASI

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., an affiliate of General Atomics, delivers situational awareness by providing remotely piloted aircraft systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems solutions for military and commercial applications worldwide. The company’s Aircraft Systems business unit is a leading designer and manufacturer of proven, reliable RPA systems, including Predator A, Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper®, Gray Eagle, the new Predator C Avenger®, and Predator XP. It also manufactures a variety of state-of-the-art digital Ground Control Stations (GCS), including the next-generation Advanced Cockpit GCS, and provides pilot training and support services for RPA field operations. The Mission Systems business unit designs, manufactures, and integrates the Lynx® Multi-mode Radar and sophisticated Claw® sensor control and image analysis software into both manned and remotely piloted aircraft. It also focuses on providing integrated sensor payloads and software for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft platforms and develops high energy lasers, electro-optic sensors, and meta-material antennas. For more information, please visit

Predator, Reaper, Avenger, Lynx, and Claw are registered trademarks of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.

About Grand Sky

Grand Sky is a 217-acre business and aviation park focused on supporting the UAS industry in North Dakota and the U.S. It is a development executed in partnership with Grand Forks County, N.D., and is located on Grand Forks Air Force Base. Grand Sky offers 1.2 million square feet of hangar, office, shop, laboratory and data center space available on a build-to-suit basis with financing available. For more information, visit

For more information contact:

Kimberly Kasitz  
Public Relations Manager  
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.  

Additional information on the event may be obtained by contacting the following:

Kris Bevill
Flint Group, for Grand Sky


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