Emerging Prairie hosted over 600 attendees and over 55 speakers from around the country during the third annual two-day Drone Focus Conference. Almost 300 companies were represented in the crowd as the current work and future plans for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and other unmanned systems were put forth from the stage. The speakers represented government officials, regulatory agencies, and private sector companies. “Our goal for this conference is to provide a platform for the Drone (UAV) and unmanned systems industry that educates the public, connects potential business partnerships, and inspires future innovation in the industry,” explained Lindsay Breuler, Emerging Prairie’s Conference Directo, and Development Associate.

Powerful Opening Remarks

Secretary Elaine Chao

Venue Production and Design by Livewire Entertainment Media Services, LLC

The conference opened with inspiring and engaging presentations from the United States Senator John Hoeven (ND), Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation Elaine Chao, and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum. Below are a few quotes from these government officials during the conference that shed light on the present and future of the Drone Industry in North Dakota and around the nation.

“The integration of drones into our national airspace will be the biggest technological challenge to aviation since the beginning of the Jet Age….Our job is to prepare the way for this new technology, so it can be deployed safely and usher in a new era of aviation service, accessibility, and ingenuity.” – Elaine Chao (Remarks Here)

“We are advancing UAS operations here in North Dakota unlike anywhere else in the nation… Now that we have secured authorization for beyond-line-of-sight flights, it is vital that federal agencies are able to keep up with the innovations of industry and our state stays on the cutting-edge of UAS applications.” – John Hoeven (Remarks Here)

“There are enabling technologies that are unstoppable forces that unmanned aerial vehicles and systems are riding on top of….We must embrace these technologies because the future is coming faster than we understand.” Doug Burgum

From these opening remarks, the conference was primed for speakers to share about the present realities of the UAV industry, the future regulations needed for safety, and the inspiration for future innovation.

Memorable Moments


The schedule for Drone Focus was full of networking opportunities and memorable moments. “We wanted to create a schedule that offered attendees the chance to interact, network and find their niche in the Drone industry,” explained Lindsay Breuler.  This interaction was fostered with breakout sessions and focused lunches with industry-specific topics including Women and Drones, Agriculture, UAVs at work, and autonomous vehicles. On the other hand, some attendees will remember Drone Focus 2017 as their first experience working towards receiving a Drone Pilots License (Part 107 training), or Drone racing at the Microsoft Campus in Fargo at the Drone Focus Fest.

Beyond the schedule highlights, Drone Focus 2017 will be remembered as the conference where Doug Burgum announced the formation of the first UAS Detection and Counter-UAS Task Force, Marlo Anderson, sporting a tuxedo and top hat to proclaim the inaugural National Autonomous Vehicle Day, and Tim Mahoney, the mayor of Fargo, announcing the Autonomous Innovation Prize for the City of Fargo.

The Future is NowDrone Focus Conference

“Creativity and innovation are part of the great genius of America—one of its hallmarks…..it is also critical that Silicon Valley and other innovators step up and share with the public their understanding of new technology, and address legitimate public concerns about safety and privacy,” explained Chao. These words of Secretary Chao set the tone of Drone Focus 2017, and they will continue to inspire the UAV and Unmanned systems industry into the future. Emerging Prairie believes the future of this industry will lead to improving the human condition and will therefore continue to host Drone Focus Monthly as well as the next Drone Focus Conference in Fargo on May 30th and 31st in 2018.

For more information about getting involved with Drone Focus, reach out to dronefocus@emergingprairie.com.


Brent McNeal