Date of Award

January 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Gordon L. Iseminger


Unmanned Aircraft, or drones, represent a modern-day frontier, one that is, as yet, neither fully explored nor fully developed. The state of North Dakota has moved into the frontier and is deeply involved in its exploration and development. The state has invested tens of millions of dollars in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) industry, an investment that has helped to attract tens of millions of additional dollars from military sources and from private business firms. The University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, long-recognized as among the leading aviation schools in the nation, is at the forefront of developing and applying Unmanned Aircraft Systems, and the school was the first to offer a university degree in UAS. Noting North Dakota’s commanding position in the UAS industry, an article in the New York Times dated December 25, 2015, referred to the state as “the Silicon Valley of Drones.” This thesis will contribute to the scholarly treatment of the UAS industry by concentrating on its development and application in the state of North Dakota. It will do so by using frontiers as the historical backdrop. Throughout the state’s history, North Dakotans have been characterized by their ability and willingness to adapt to the hardships and challenges faced on the North Dakota frontiers. They have also been able and willing to adapt to opportunities, to prospects, and to advances in technology. This thesis treats how North Dakotans are once again adapting, this time to the opportunities, prospects, and challenges presented by yet another frontier- that of unmanned aircraft or drones.