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UAS Summit to focus more on commercial use, experts say

The newly unveiled Sharper A6 aircraft hovers above the Alerus Center arena during the 2016 UAS Summit and Expo. Photo by Brandi Jewett/Grand Forks Herald.

Experts say a Grand Forks conference that attracts hundreds in the unmanned aircraft sector will focus more on how all industries can use the technology, with a European company slated to unveil a commercial U.S. product.

The 11th annual UAS Summit and Expo will kick off Monday and runs through Wednesday, Aug. 23, at the Alerus Center. Speakers are expected to discuss changes in the UAS industry from various points of view, but there likely will be a larger focus on the commercial uses for unmanned aircraft, also known as drones, compared to past summits, said Trevor Woods, director of safety for the Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site in Grand Forks.

"That's a common thing you'll hear every time we go to the summit," he said. "It's less and less becoming military; it's becoming more and more industry-focused.

Military uses still are important, but commercial use has become more apparent as drones are made more available for public use, Woods said.

"Ideally, it is just another tool in the toolbox," he said.

Using drones to gather data, as well as the use of autonomous vehicles, likely will be a talker at the event, said Terry Sando, director of the UAS Sector Development with the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp.

"I think you are going to see more of the practical applications in the 11th UAS Summit," he said.

Flying drones beyond visual line of sight also will be discussed at the conference as the Federal Aviation Administration is forming guidelines for those operations. The Northern Plains Test Site was given federal approval in December to fly beyond line of sight at Grand Sky.

"Now a lot of people are curious to see what it takes to get there and what is our next step," Woods said of flying beyond line of sight.

Camps for kid

Middle- and high school-aged children will get a chance to fly unmanned aircraft as part of camps during the UAS Summit.

Attarobot will host two UAS camps with the UND Aerospace program Monday at the Alerus Center, according to a news release. The camps will focus on small UAS application, rules and hands-on experience.

The first session, running from 8:30 to 10 a.m., will be for fifth- through eighth-graders, with registration at 8 a.m.

Registration for the second session is at 10 a.m. for grades 9-12. That camp runs 10:30 a.m. to noon.

Each camp is limited to 30 children. To reserve a spot, call (701) 732-0592 and leave a message with the child's name, grade level and contact information.

The unmanned aircraft used in the camp were purchased through a grant from the Women's Fund in Grand Forks.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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