Senator John Hoeven Calls ND Drone Industry ‘The Leader of the Pack’

At this month’s DroneFocus meeting, special guest Sen. John Hoeven commended participants for their work in the field and discussed his hopes for the future of drone technology.

On Nov. 25, engineers, entrepreneurs, and enthusiasts from around the region gathered in the Prairie Den to discuss recent innovations in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) industry. After the designated half hour of networking and lunching, Alec Winmill, marketing expert for local drone industry startup Botlink, got the meeting started.

“Alright,” Winmill said. “Let’s show the new people here, including Senator Hoeven, what we do every month.”

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Senator John Hoeven. Photo by Nick Friesen

In typical Drone Focus fashion, representatives from private sector companies around the region then took the floor to introduce their work in and with the UAS industry to Hoeven and the rest of the audience. Among those represented were Fargo based companies Botlink, Packet Digital, Launch Boxx, Peterson Farms Seed, the Fargo Jet Center, and Flight Pros.

The floor was then handed over to Hoeven, a long-time advocate of the UAS industry in North Dakota. Some old friends in the audience teased the senator about the days he spent on stage as an aspiring young actor; however, his theatrical background served him well as he discussed the evolution of the UAS industry in North Dakota.

Hoeven likened the ongoing expansion of the UAS industry in North Dakota to the growth of the state as an “energy powerhouse” in his years as Governor.

“It’s not just that we had the resources,” Hoeven said. “We created the environment for investment and brought these great entrepreneurs and these companies that were willing to invest in these great technologies…that brought North Dakota to 1.2 million barrels of oil a day.”

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He explained that between the entrepreneurs, the technology development, the investments, and the vision, “we’re talking about doing the same in technology entrepreneurship…with unmanned aircraft.”

Hoeven has high-flying hopes for the future of the UAS industry in North Dakota and throughout the nation, and is working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to make them reality. The FAA Reauthorization Act, which he hopes to see passed in the next year, will allow for more unmanned aircraft to safely share the air with manned aircraft. He is also continuing his support of the FAA Centers of Excellence, which provide funding for UAS companies to help them research and develop new technologies.

As the rest of the country catches up, Hoeven believes that the companies represented at Drone Focus and across the state have helped North Dakota set a good example for how this industry can move forward.

“There is a remarkable cadre of entrepreneurs, up and down the valley, who are innovative, creative, energetic,” Hoeven said. “I think we have the opportunity to drive the UAS industry out of this region for the country.”

The participants at DroneFocus were greatly appreciative of Senator Hoeven’s ongoing support, and even offered him a gift. Tommy Kenville, a representative from ComDel Innovation and Altavian presented him with his very own Nova F6500 Aircraft, an all-electronic drone manufactured in Wahpeton, ND.

However, to the Senator’s dismay, they wouldn’t let him fly it home himself.

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Written by Emerging Prairie guest writer – Katie Beedy.

Marisa Jackels