Northland Community & Technical College Announces Collaboration Agreement With Northrop Grumman

Published in Midwest Flyer – Oct/Nov 2016

THIEF RIVER FALLS, MINN. – Northland Community & Technical College (NCTC) of Thief River Falls, Minn., announced August 23, 2016, a collaboration agreement with Northrop Grumman Corporation as part of the continuing support of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) efforts in the Red River Valley area of North Dakota and Minnesota. Northrop Grumman Corporation will donate the use of equipment related to the “Bat” unmanned aircraft system. The Bat is a medium altitude, multi-mission unmanned aircraft system that is runway-independent and fully autonomous. It is designed to launch from a pneumatic/hydraulic rail launcher and recover into a net recovery system.

The announcement was made at the UAS Summit in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The equipment, including the aircraft, flight control and launch and recovery elements, will be used by NCTC at the aerospace site in its UAS maintenance and training program.

NCTC recently completed an 18,760 sq. ft. remodeling project at the aerospace site that will house the new equipment. The new facility located at Thief River Falls Airport will serve as a state-of-the-art training facility for aerospace specific trades. Included in the facility are new labs focused on non-metallic structure and composites, electronics and avionics, and a new hangar, which has been designed with specialized considerations for housing and operating unmanned aircraft systems like the equipment NCTC will receive through this collaboration agreement.

The program trains students on the maintenance and repair of the components of unmanned aircraft systems to include: unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), ground control stations (GCSs), understanding the function of data links or the communication/guidance system between vehicle and satellites (line of sight), and a basic understanding of computer networks and their relationships within UAS. Collaborations like this one with Northrop Grumman allow students access to the technology needed to prepare them for this rapidly evolving workforce.

“Northrop Grumman has been a friend and partner to NCTC since we started working in the UAS industry,” said Curtis Zoller, associate dean of aerospace and agriculture. “The Bat UAS collaboration represents another firm example of ongoing commitments to find innovative solutions to training today’s workforce. Northland Aerospace will integrate the system into our current training programs in order to offer the most advanced training possible to our students. Investments made by NCTC and partners like Northrop Grumman in infrastructure and technology over the past years have all been focused on advanced student education. It is all about the students.”

“Northrop Grumman is pleased to make the Bat system and its support equipment available to enhance UAS training at Northland Community & Technical College,” said Rick Crooks, director, advanced systems, Northrop Grumman Autonomous Systems. “NCTC is a leader in producing aviation mechanics and technicians, and we’ve already hired several of their graduates. Our collaboration reflects the commitment we made in 2013 to this area and to the advancement of UAS technologies through the Red River Valley Strategic Alliance Agreement. The Red River Valley is fast becoming a key center for unmanned aircraft systems and we’re proud to support its growth.”

Northrop Grumman is building a new 36,000 square foot facility at Grand Sky Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Business and Aviation Park near Grand Forks, N.D. The facility will support research and development, aircrew and maintenance training, operations and mission analysis, and aircraft maintenance in the local region.

Northland Community & Technical College is a comprehensive college with campuses in East Grand Forks, Minn. and Thief River Falls, Minn. One- and two-year degrees, transfer programs and diploma certification are available in a variety of majors, as well as workforce training and continuing education programs. NCTC is a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. Visit the college at

NCTC is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

This material is based in part upon work supported by the
National Science Foundation (DUE 1501629). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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