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TrainND Northwest to build public ‘Drone Park’ in Williston

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 5:11 PM CDT
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WILLISTON, N.D. (KUMV) - The potential for unmanned aerial drones continues to grow, and so does the need for training. That’s why educators in Williston are building some new infrastructure east of town.

Empty space near Williston State College is going to be transformed into a drone park and training grounds for TrainND Northwest’s drone academy. Not only will it provide adequate space to fly these vehicles, but it will also be available for public use.

This patch of land on East Dakota Parkway will soon be the hub for TrainND’s drone testing site. It will also have seating and shaded areas for the public to witness these vehicles in action.

“It’s an opportunity for the public to experience UAS in a safe, confined area. Hopefully that sparks interest where people want to come, take the training, and explore job opportunities,” said Kenley Nebeker, Regional Director for Technical Programs and Training for TrainND Northwest.

On Tuesday, the Williston City Commission approved up to $150,000 from the STAR Fund to assist TrainND Northwest in creating the park. Economic Development Director Shawn Wenko says creating more opportunities to fly will help in attracting more businesses while developing the workforce.

“It’s going to be a neat park and it’s really a one-of-its-kind here in western North Dakota for UAS operators to go out, have some fun, do some training, and fly UAS,” said Wenko.

Through the Vantis network, drone operators in northwest North Dakota are able to fly their drones beyond visual line of sight, which has created opportunities for package delivery and pipeline inspections. Last month, ISight Drone Services showed the potential for drones by assisting Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative in their power restoration efforts.

“Without the drone technology, it would have taken us much, much longer. It’s important to the utility industry and to the many industries in the region,” said Chris Brostuen, Williston City Commissioner and Assistant Manager for MWEC.

Nebeker also plans to add a drone racing course to the area. He is hoping to see the park set up by the end of summer.

TrainND Northwest provides drone courses for both visual and beyond visual line of sight. For more information on these courses, visit willistonstate.edu/trainnd.

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