MINOT, N.D. — North Dakota-grown SkySkopes continues to expand its presence in the emerging unmanned aircraft industry.

The drone company is hiring to fill multiple pilot positions in its Minot and out-of-state offices. Based in Grand Forks, SkySkopes also has offices in Williston, Fargo, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and Fort Worth, Texas.

The current hiring comes with the recent debut of a new subsidiary, SkySkopes Oil & Gas, at an expo in Houston, Texas. SkySkopes has had a focus on the energy sector since establishing a Minot presence at the end of December 2016 to be closer to the Bakken field. The company flies a variety of unmanned aircraft for transmission/distribution line inspections, engineering and oil and gas applications.

With the development of viable business models in the energy sector and greater public acceptance of drones, employment opportunities are rising at SkySkopes.

"We have doubled in the last year and a half. We are expecting to probably double again over the next year," Dunlevy said. "We are growing at a fast pace but it's still an organic pace — in no small part due to the MAGIC Fund. Without the MAGIC Fund, we wouldn't have gotten to this position we are at."

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A MAGIC Fund forgivable loan of $375,100 in 2017 enabled SkySkopes to purchase equipment that helped define the core business model, Dunlevy said. He said the business model proved successful in a stringent regulatory environment, and he credits the MAGIC Fund and Minot Area Development Corp. leaders for making that model possible.

In connection with the MAGIC Fund loan, SkySkopes has been required to meet three employment benchmarks. It achieved the first and second benchmarks, having at least seven full-time positions by year two. Dunlevy said the third benchmark of 15 full-time positions after three years should be reached as well.

Dunlevy said SkySkopes is taking a "crawl, walk, run" approach to growth to avoid getting too far ahead of itself.

"We are convinced that the UAS industry is one where slow and steady can win the race," he said. "We believe that growing similarly to the rates of the technology improvements and the regulatory relaxation is a winning formula."

SkySkopes' services now are gaining traction on the East Coast and in the Midwest as the company builds its reputation as a leading service provider and catches the eye of major publications such as Forbes and the general aviation industry's In Flight USA.

Dunlevy said much of the company's reputation stems from the work being done in the Minot office, where free-flowing ideas from pilots have led to innovations that have propelled the company to the industry's forefront.