Al Palmer Named to North Dakota Airspace Integration Team

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News Article

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Campus Unit

University of North Dakota


Al Palmer, director of the University of North Dakota Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Research, Education and Training, has been appointed by Sen. Kent Conrad, Sen. John Hoeven, Congressman Rick Berg, and Governor Jack Dalrymple to serve on the just-launched North Dakota Airspace Integration Team.

This team will be the interface between the state and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on UAS integration into the National Airspace System (NAS).

“This will continue to keep North Dakota in a leadership role in the integration of UAS into the NAS,” said Palmer, an alum of UND’s aviation program.

“North Dakota is uniquely situated to be a primary test site for the FAA in the integration of UAS into the NAS—one that could serve as a model to be deployed nationally after being proven in North Dakota,” the N.D. congressional delegation and governor state in a letter to Babbitt, as quoted in a release from Hoeven’s office last week.

In Hoeven’s release, the group cited the Grand Forks Air Force Base, Customs and Border Protection UAS missions in the state, the UAS Center of Excellence at the University of North Dakota and North Dakota’s uncongested air space in calling for the FAA to establish a test site in North Dakota.

Additionally, the delegation and Gov. Dalrymple asked that the FAA meet with the North Dakota UAS Integration Team and use the group’s technical expertise to ensure a smooth integration process. The Integration Team is developing a plan for a North Dakota UAS integration pilot project and comprises members representing the aviation community, UND, the North Dakota National Guard, and local and state economic development officials, as well as private companies.

According to Hoeven’s office, the congressional delegation and the governor are aggressively working with the state’s UAS community, including the UAS Center of Excellence and the Red River Valley Working Group in Grand Forks, to maintain the state’s leadership in UAS technologies and to grow their operations. The congressional delegation authored amendments to both the U.S. Senate and House of Representative’s versions of the FAA Reauthorization Act that authorize the FAA to work with the military to integrate UAS into the national airspace system and to establish test sites and training centers for the systems.

Palmer spent more than 30 years at the UND John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, ultimately as director of flight operations, before returning from retirement to direct the University’s UAS program. During his career Palmer accumulated more than 9,400 hours of flying time, of which over 5,900 were as an instructor pilot. He is a designated pilot examiner for several aviation license ratings. He holds several type ratings (licenses to fly), including for Cessna Citation jets.

Palmer began his career in aviation with the U.S. Air Force, leaving active duty to join John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences in 1978. He continued his military career with the North Dakota Air National Guard. He served as Logistics and Support Group Commander for the 119th Fighter Wing, retiring as the chief of staff with the rank of brigadier general.