Drone Focus Conf 2016 to feature student competition

At this year’s Drone Focus Conference 2016, students with innovative ideas for the drone industry will compete for a $10,000 Innovate ND grant.

NDSU students Jacob Larson and Jordan Brummond are part of the University Innovation Fellows program and are organizing the competition as a way to get students connected with UAS industry leaders.


Jordan, Jacob and Drew Spooner are part of the University Innovation Fellows.

“The outcome we want students to have here is networking,” Larson said “To talk with industry leaders, to know next steps, and to get access to funding for a successful venture.”

Competitors are expected to develop teams, research their idea, and present it in a short 3-5 minute pitch on the day of the conference, June 1, 2016. The format is similar to 1 Million Cups, they said, with a few minutes for a presentation and then a few for Q&A with the judges.

The pitch should include:

1. Who comprises your team
2. What is your idea
3. Who will use it
4. How will you succeed
5. What is your next stepping stone

Drone Focus

Students are eligible if they are currently enrolled as a university student as of 2015 – 2016. STudets who graduate in spring of 2016 are still eligible. Teams must also have a faculty advisor.

The winner will be qualified for the $10,000 Innovate ND grant, and other secondary prizes are in the works, Brummond and Larson said.

Given the broad potential within the UAS industry, participants could be presenting anything from an attachable camera to a drone itself, they said.

“It could be a service, a product, something software related, that could interest the drone industry in any way,” Brummond explained.  “Do research on it. Go out and pitch it. See if it is totally new.”

The competition is open to students from across the nation. Already Burmmond and Larson are planning with the University of Nevada – Las Vegas and James Madison in Virginia, who have expressed interest in sending students to compete.

This is the second annual Drone Focus Conference in Fargo, and will be held at the Stage at Island Park. In addition to the student competition portion, the conference will also feature a keynote by Lisa Ellman, a leader in establishing policy within the UAS industry and former law student of Barack Obama. Attending companies include Intelligent InSites, Fargo Jet Center Botlink, John Deere, RDO and Appareo.

Drone Focus

It’s because of these companies and UAS facilities like the Northern Plains Test Site, that Larsen calls North Dakota “one the leading hotspots for Unmanned Aerial Systems in the nation.” This, above all, is what they want students to experience.

“Even if you’re ultimate end goal isn’t to build a business with your idea, this is a great opportunity to make those connections,” Larson said.

Interested students can apply here.

Marisa Jackels

Marisa Jackels

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