FARGO - Gov. Doug Burgum is proposing that North Dakota spend $30 million to build a statewide tracking network for unmanned aerial systems.
Burgum made the announcement Friday, Nov. 30, at the eighth annual State of Technology Conference at the Delta by Marriott in Fargo.
The beyond visual line-of-sight network would act like an air traffic control system for UAS systems, Burgum said.
The proposal is in Burgum's budget recommendations for the 2019-21 biennium, which he will submit to the Legislature in an address Wednesday, Dec. 5, at the state Capitol. Funding for the plan would come from earnings from the state’s Legacy Fund, his office said in a news release.
The network would make UAS operations more efficient for state agencies, local communities and the private sector, Burgum said. That would include applications for precision and automated farming initiatives.
The executive budget will also propose $3 million to upgrade infrastructure at the Grand Sky unmanned aircraft facility at Grand Forks Air Force Base, and $3 million to support operations at the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in Grand Forks.
“We have to keep driving forward” on technology, Burgum said in a speech that touched upon several high-tech initiatives in the state.
Other keynote speakers at the conference included Linda McMahon, administrator of the federal Small Business Administration, and Andrei Iancu, director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Iancu praised North Dakota State University's Research and Technology Park and its small business incubator, Gov. Burgum's Main Street Initiative to revitalize and spur growth in the state's communities, and the conference itself.
Such initiatives grow "a rich entrepreneurial ecosystem," Iancu said. "In today's highly competitive global economy, we need all hands on deck" to compete and maintain the nation's prosperity.
"We are in the throes of the next industrial revolution," McMahon said.
McMahon said the Trump administration's tax cuts and regulatory reforms will help small businesses thrive. And the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade, signed Friday, will benefit agricultural producers and the auto industry while strengthening intellectual property rights, she said.
"It's an exciting time for our country, our economy," MaMahon said.
Sen. John Hoeven, R.-N.D., who hosted the event with the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce, said the conference is important in establishing North Dakota as a technology hub.
“The focus on empowering entrepreneurship is a nationwide movement, but we do it best here in North Dakota,” Hoeven said. "Between private investment, the state's pro-growth business climate and our federal efforts, we are positioned to build on the strong trend of growth in our tech sector."
Hoeven said North Dakota's oil sector is doing well, approaching 1.4 billion barrels of production a day, second only to Texas. The technology sector contributes $3 billion to the gross state product annually. North Dakota also leads the nation in tax relief, and "we are leading in all things UAS," he said.
Seth Andorfer, CEO of Dakota Carrier Network, told those attending that North Dakota is among the nation’s leaders in internet connectivity. Next year, every school in the state will have a 1 gigabyte connection to the internet, which will be a first in the nation, he said.
North Dakota is “the crown jewel of the internet in the Midwest” thanks to its high-speed internet connectivity, Andorfer said.
With increased use of technology in agriculture, “we want to communicate to everything,” including grain bins and tractors, Andorfer said.
Dakota Carrier has also completed a 13,280-square-foot expansion at its Great Plains Data Center in Fargo, more than doubling the footprint and increasing server floor space sixfold at the secure data-storage facility.
Dr. Jennifer Raum, an internal medicine specialist and medical director of clinic services at Sanford Health, and Yossi Saadon of TytoCare, talked about using telemedicine to provide patients with care at far-flung locations.
Raum said there have been more than 10,000 e-visits and more than 1,400 video visits with patients in the pilot project.
Saadon said the TytoCare device allows patients to perform basic exams and send those results to their caregivers.
“Your health is in your hands,” Saadon said, “literally and figuratively.”
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., also made an appearance at the conference.
Heitkamp said open access to the internet will be vital to compete internationally in the years ahead.
"We're going to have markets we never had access to before," she said.
At the same time, internet security must be a concern for both the private and public sector, Heitkamp said. That concern was underlined by Friday's announcement by Marriott that its Starwood guest reservation database was breached by hackers, potentially exposing private information of 500 million guests.
"The public is going to continue to demand" a safer system, she said.
At the same time, the future will be shaped by those companies that can best use data to find cheaper, more efficient ways to work, she said.
"The most significant commodity in the United States will be data," Heitkamp said.
Burgum said technology disruption in the future will touch all aspects of society, including agriculture, education, health care, energy, government, business and culture.
Every organization will have "to think about how you become a software company or you will be disrupted by one," Burgum said. "We need to understand that everything we do" can be disrupted by technology.