UND’s Al Palmer attends major UAS conference in Turkey


David L. Dodds

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences


University getting world's attention about training prowess, opportunities

Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Al Plamer, "Mr. UAS" at the University of North Dakota, is spreading the word around the world about unmanned aircraft system training opportunities right here on the Grand Forks campus -- and the world is listening.

Check that. They're doing more than listening. The world is lining up to send their aspiring UAS pilots to UND.

Palmer, director of UND's Center for UAS Research, Education and Training at the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, is fresh off a weeklong visit to Istanbul, Turkey, for the International Conference on Air & Space Power 2013 (ICAP 13), which kicked off March 27 – the first time the prestigious event has been held in Turkey. Palmer addressed more than 1,000 conference attendees -- representing 57 countries -- on education, research and training opportunities taking place right now at UND. He was the only attendee who represented a university.

"I had a great time while I was there, talking about UND and all that we are doing here with UAS development – it was just fantastic," Palmer said.

Palmer said, during the conference, he was approached by two high-ranking generals in the Saudi Arabian military, one representing the nation's National Guard and the other from Ministry of Defense, about training opportunities at UND for Turkish UAS pilots. He had a similar experience with a member of the German military who was in attendance.

Palmer said that any training arrangement that might be struck between UND and other nations would first have to be reviewed and approved through a rigorous process by the U.S. State Department. Individual prospective pilots from other nations also would be to be thoroughly vetted by the State Department, he said. If something ever developed, Palmer said it would likely be similar to the agreement that UND used to train helicopter pilots from Saudi Arabia.

Though no training deals are in place yet, Palmer said he's already contacted the State Department to let them know about the interest he received in Turkey.

Palmer was invited to ICAP 13 after personnel from the Turkish Air Force attended a UAS training conference that Palmer chaired in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. At that conference, Palmer shared a panel with Lt. Gen (Ret.) David Deptula, known as "Mr. UAS" for the U.S. Air Force.

Palmer said the whole experience was like being at the United Nations in New York, where everyone wears a headset so that they can listen to the various speakers in their own language.

Palmer also had the privilege of being one only three people from the conference interviewed by national Turkish television, another opportunity to send a message about all UND has to offer the UAS field.

Palmer added that the whole trip cost him a grand total of $40, after his hosts covered all other costs.

ICAP 13 was sponsored by the Turkish Air War College and the Turkish Air Force.