In the booming economy of drone technology, North Dakota has been an early and enthusiastic adopter. The Federal Aviation Administration chose it as one of six official drone test sites, and the entire state permits unmanned flights at night and at altitudes of 1,200 feet (as opposed to daylight and up to 200 feet, as per the rest of the nation). The U.S. Air Force, Air National Guard, and border patrol all pilot drones from Grand Forks Air Force Base. Adjacent to that, Northrup Grumman is building a facility as the anchor tenant at the Grand Sky unmanned aerial systems business and aviation park—the nation’s first. And the University of North Dakota launched the nation’s first undergraduate program in drone piloting in 2009. ... as oil prices plummet and production drops off, North Dakota sees drones as its chance to develop a bust-proof tech sector. ... This flat state’s chief selling point as a nascent drone industry, though, might not be what it has, but what it lacks: There are fewer people and things to collide with should your craft, as one airman put it, “come into contact with the ground.”
Moving into the FBS, which the team has faced increasing pressure to do, would give the Bison the chance to play against the Alabamas, Ohio States, and Oklahomas of the college football universe, grab more media attention, and possibly rake in huge financial rewards—but it could also cost them money and championships. Stay put in the FCS, and the Bison should keep winning. ESPN stops by. The executive director of the booster program, Pat Simmers, continues to receive $250,000 donations from fans who don’t want to wait for season tickets. What’s a ridiculously dominant small-town football team to do? It’s a question with the potential to roil the Bison faithful and ruin this overachieving team’s role as ambassador for an overachieving city. ... Right now, Larsen’s budget is $22 million. The nation’s top programs have kitties in excess of $120 million, built largely on the billions networks pay for broadcast rights. Each school in the Southeastern Conference—the one Alabama plays in—raked in $31.2 million last season, mostly from TV. North Dakota State won’t be paid to have ESPN broadcast its opener—nor any of its contests against Missouri Valley Football Conference opponents—mainly because there aren’t enough eyeballs on its games when FBS games are being broadcast at the same time. Moving up to the FBS wouldn’t guarantee that revenue will pour in, but if NDSU established itself, it could make millions.