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WASHINGTON - Forget the North Dakota energy boom. How about a drone boom?

State and federal officials have big hopes for the growth of what are known as unmanned aircraft systems. And experts say North Dakota is well-positioned to take advantage of its attributes. Those include a first-of-its-kind academic program, an established military presence, a financial commitment and favorable airspace conditions.

Ben Gielow is general counsel for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a group that promotes unmanned systems and robotics. He says North Dakota decided years ago to focus on the issue, and is now a leader in drone development.

The push to make North Dakota a drone nexus is expected to progress next month, when the first test flights of an FAA-approved drone research program will take off.

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