Drones Creating Opportunity For Western North Dakota

With new technology, comes new opportunities. Drones are continuing to take flight around the world, with Western North Dakota being a new spot for drone technology opportunities.

Vantis, a company base in Grand Forks, chose Watford City and Williston as the starting point for testing new BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) network - Vantis and the Northern Plains UAS Test Site is the first BVLOS in the nation. The state has invested $48 million and infrastructure toward the new venture.

On Oct. 19, Vanits performed a demo flight at Watford City's Rough Rider Center, showing community members all the possibilities of drones. The company and Watford City community leaders spoke about the great opportunity and diversification drones will pose on the local economy, including emerging jobs and careers. 

"The possibilities with UAS are endless. Every time I talk to somebody they want to know if a drone can do this or if a drone can do that - they can do just about anything. You can check your crops, cows, and even survey," said Kenley Nebeker, TrainND Regional Director for Technical Programs and Training.

Train ND hopes to offer drone training courses in the future. They received a one-million-dollar appropriation to create classes to train people to become operators, one of the first in the nation. For Train ND to receive the funding, they must raise a million dollars of their own.

Drone programs would also be implemented at Watford City's Bakken Area Skill Center.

"It is an exciting time to be a young person in North Dakota. You have a community that is embracing new technology and the state is doing a lot of innovative things," added Dr. Steve Holen, McKenzie County Public School superintendent.

The Bakken Area Skill Center is still waiting on grant approval; the main focus of the center will be to align students with learning material and programs that they will also do as an adult.

"As we connect the dots (forward looking statements), it's very possible that Beyond Visual Line of Sight lands in the form of a future curriculum for our Bakken Area Skills Center," said Patrick Bertagnolli, Rough Rider Center and Community Enhancement Director.

Community leaders believe that drone technology will help enhance western North Dakota; benefiting both agriculture and oil companies with aerial inspections and a long list of other possibilities


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