Demand for Drones Drives Data Center Construction in North Dakota
An RQ-4 Block 20 Global Hawk drone for the U.S. Air Force. [Courtesy Northrop Grumman]

Demand for Drones Drives Data Center Construction in North Dakota

In Grand Forks, North Dakota, some 217 acres of a 5,400-acre tract originally built as a fighter interceptor base, were carved out and set aside for civilian commercial purposes.

It’s hard to ignore an industrial park with its own airport.  In Grand Forks, North Dakota, some 217 acres of a 5,400-acre tract originally built as a fighter interceptor base, were carved out and set aside for civilian commercial purposes.  A very big rectangular plot, somewhat bigger than a shopping mall parking lot, has been paved over — too small for landing single-prop planes, too large for hosting a rock concert.

It’s for unmanned drone aircraft — specifically, unmanned aerial systems (UAS).  Indeed, the Grand Sky Industrial Park complex may already have become the nation’s premier research and training facility for the operation of UAS drones.  Two of its anchor tenants are Northrop Grumman and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.

At an airfield adjacent to the old fighter jet runways, Grand Forks-based Grand Sky Development Co. and New Braunfels, Texas-based renewable energy development firm Infinity Development Partners, have been constructing a 1.2-million square foot office facility, complete with four hangars.

And in a development that plays more into our bailiwick, Grand Sky announced Wednesday that it is investing $10 million into the construction of a dedicated data center facility, for the tenants of that complex.

The co-builder is not one you’ve heard of: another Grand Forks firm named EdgeData.  Its key product is actually a software-based analytics tool called BladeEdge, designed to gather analytics data from wind farm turbines.

You see, a key method for inspecting the operational capability of a wind turbine is to send up a camera.  The only truly reliable and safe way to do that is with drones — which indicates how Grand Sky and EdgeData got together.

This also suggests that wind power will very likely be a key component of the project.

The two firms’ plan is to construct a new, 16,000-square foot complex, with 6,000 feet hardened and conditioned.  With the goals they’ve set forth, the facility will likely be fully operational by the first quarter of 2018.

Spokespersons for EdgeData had yet to respond to Data Center Knowledge’s request for comment, by press time.

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