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Devils Lake eyes drone park

By   Forum Communications

Published in the Dickinson Press Nov. 6, 2017

Devils Lake leaders want to attract more businesses to the area as it develops plans for an unmanned aircraft park.

City officials have worked with engineers to develop a concept for a UAS park near its airport. The Devils Lake Regional Airport, which sits just west of the city, was one of 50 airports across the country chosen by the Federal Aviation Administration to be given automated authorization to fly unmanned aircraft, also known as drones, in controlled airspace.

It gives businesses that are interested in using drones for their business a place to train their staff, Forward Devils Lake Executive Director Rachel Lindstrom said. In total, the city has about 34 acres dedicated to the park, she said.

"The first person in is going to get a lot of opportunities to choose what they want out of it," she said. "We would like to see businesses coming in that want to have a play in the industry and be focused on that."

The city recently wrapped up designing the potential layout of the park, but how it is designed could change based on the needs of the businesses, Lindstrom said. For now, potential tenants can choose from plots that are less than an acre and 4- to 5-acre lots. There are about 8 acres for the small plots and 25.8 acres for the larger spots, she said.

"The industry is so rapidly changing and it is so new that it is really hard to envision what is going to be coming out of the future," she said.

Lindstrom said she didn't foresee the Devils Lake drone park as a second Grand Sky, a drone park near Grand Forks that has been dubbed the first UAS technology park in the U.S. She viewed Grand Sky as a place for larger drone companies. The Devils Lake park would focus more on training and possibly testing equipment, she said.

Lindstrom attended the Commercial UAV Expo this week in Las Vegas to promote Devils Lake as a potential hub for the drone industry—she said she wanted to highlight the park, UAS class offerings at Lake Region State College, and the city's proximity to Grand Sky and Camp Grafton, an Army National Guard installation south of Devils Lake.

The prospect of having a drone park that can accommodate businesses is exciting, said Paula Vistad, executive director for the Devils Lake Chamber of Commerce.

"It's a very exciting opportunity for us to have that in the area," she said. "With ... Camp Grafton, the college, the airport, we're set up to be just as multifunctional, I believe, as Grand Forks can be."