Secretary of Homeland Security Learns About Drones’ Impact on Border Security at Grand Sky

Secretary of Air Force Heather Wilson will visit Grand Sky on August 20

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — A few weeks ago Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke was in Fargo. Now all eyes are on North Dakota yet again as another member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet makes a visit to our region.

This time Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen is in Grand Forks to learn how drones can impact border security.

When it comes to aviation in the Peace Garden State, the terrain sticks out the most to Sec. Nielsen.

“It gives us an ability to try all kinds of different sensors, cameras, different capabilities we’d like to add to unmanned aerial systems,” Nielsen said.

The second is collaboration.

“I can’t really stress that enough because we need to take the innovation of the private sector and their understanding of the technological requirements and match is with my operational needs for the mission set,” Nielsen said.

While drones can assist the Department of Homeland Security agents on their missions, Sec. Nielsen says they also assist drug smugglers in getting illegal substances across the Canadian and Mexican border.

“They use it to surveil where my men and women are in that unfortunately to then take action against the men and women who are trying to protect our border or to evade them,” Nielsen said.

Sen. John Hoeven and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp both support the bipartisan Preventing Emerging Threats Act, which will give DHS the ability to take over computer systems of foreign drones entering U.S. territory.

“We watch them but once we have the authority, we’d be able to interact and see if it in fact, does have a nefarious purpose,” Nielsen said.

“In real time, they can surveil it on a 24–7 hour a week basis. Think of how much more effective them in interdicting drugs, smuggling, people coming across illegally, you name it,” Hoeven said.

Unmanned aerial systems are so important that now General Atomics Aeronautical, who is a tenant of Grand Sky, will be expanding their presence at the park.

An additional hangar will be added, meaning their six acres of space will expand to 20, and instead of a little over 30 employees, there will be 50.

“Really you look for a place you feel there’s a culture of trust can trust the local communities,” said Linden Blue, General Atomics’ chief operating officer.

Secretary of Air Force Heather Wilson is also making a visit to Grand Sky on August 20th.

Construction will start on Grand Sky’s second hangar next year.

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