“This is not a fad, this is going to change the planet,” explained Dr. Mark Hagerott, Chancellor of the North Dakota University System, about the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) industry.
This year’s “Bridging the Atlantic” Business to Business Seminar (B2B) took an extensive look at the revolutionary UAV industry. Coinciding with the kickoff of the Norsk Høstfest, the theme of this year’s B2B showcased evident commonalities and opportunities between Norway and the Midwest. Chuck Barney, Mayor of Minot and Director of the Severson Entrepreneurship Academy, Minot State University, welcomed the audience with Sven Tore Løkslid, Mayor of Telemark County, who gave the introduction for the event. The B2B was moderated by Dr. Jacek Mrozik, College of Business, Minot State University, and featured the following UAV experts:
Per Kristian Frydenlund Haga, CEO of Robot Aviation
Dr. Mark Hagerott, Chancellor of the North Dakota University System (NDUS)
Matt Dunlevy, President/CEO of SkySkopes
Nate Heinold, Director of Operations of Botlink
“Whoever put this particular panel together, did an exceptionally good job because at this table you see the entire value chain represented,” commended Matt Dunlevy, President/CEO and Founder of SkySkopes. Robot Aviation serving as the manufacturers, SkySkopes serving as the operators/integrators, Botlink serving as the software/technology experts, and the Chancellor of NDUS representing the business leaders serving as consultants, the educators, and the cyber specialists. The end-users were the only group missing from the value chain, which were easily found within the audience.
End-user applications discussed during the B2B include: cinematography, point-inspections (wind turbines, cell towers, bridge inspections), agriculture (precision ag, drainage, crop health), energy (distribution lines, energy audits, etc.), construction (volumetrics, site summary, etc.), civil service (asset assessment, wildlife conservation, surveillance), and many more.
Per Kristian Frydenlund Haga, CEO of Robot Aviation, was the first keynote speaker to begin the event. Robot Aviation is at the forefront of commercial drone technology, with more than 20 years of experience in developing and operating advanced unmanned aircraft systems for defense, government and the private sector. Robot Aviation is a Norwegian based company with offices in Poland, Norway, and Grand Forks, North Dakota. While reviewing the company’s historical milestones, Haga surprised the audience by sharing Robot Aviation’s first autonomous flight that took place in Norway in 1994. UAVs have become an emerging industry in the U.S., but countries like Norway have already conquered UAV expertise and are now bringing their expertise to the U.S. companies, such as SkySkopes.
Among many other leaders recognized, Matt Dunlevy, President/CEO of SkySkopes, said “There’s one more person in the audience today that I really need to recognize. He’s been instrumental in a lot of the partnerships we are making in the unmanned aircraft across the state and soon to be across the nation, Mr. Brian Opp, the state appointed airspace business developer. He helped bring Robot Aviation’s presence and partnership [that SkySkopes now enjoys] to North Dakota.”
SkySkopes is a UAS service provider that executes large scale aerial operations, capturing high-quality data for inspection analysis. Since June 6, 2015, SkySkopes has achieved over 300 successful missions, gained hundreds of commercial UAV flight hours, and has secured 24 UAVs and 16 UND UAS pilots. “It’s a bold claim, but we do so humbly, when we say our unmanned aircraft system pilots are the most certified in the nation, nobody to this day has tried to compete with us on that, in terms of sending their pilots [drone pilots] to the other degree awarding institutions of Higher Education in the United States,” shared Dunlevy. SkySkopes is the first company in North Dakota with trained pilots who’ve flown legally and commercially beyond visual line of site (BVLOS); similar to what Robot Aviation has been doing for years in Norway. Dunlevy explained the partnership with Robot Aviation is exactly what the “Bridging the Atlantic” B2B represents. SkySkopes President/CEO also voiced his commitment to opening an office in Minot, with 2-5 employees in the upcoming years, as Minot embodies many opportunities desired by UAV and UAS companies.
Nate Heinold, Director of Operations of Botlink, elaborated on the technology-side of the UAV industry. Botlink provides real time data processing and delivery, seamless integration with existing software, drone control safety, and situational awareness. Botlink is the world’s most capable drone control, safety and data delivery system. They build the software and hardware that turns drones into an efficiency seeking business tool. Botlink helps gather data, pushes high-resolution photos and other data wherever needed. Heinold did a demo with the Botlink app, which assists businesses in mission planning by helping with surveys, 3D renderings, jobsite monitoring, change detection, photography, and video. Heinold also discussed unique opportunities, including machine learning, streaming, UTM/aircraft management, and onboard processing/optimization.
Dr. Mark Hagerott, Chancellor of the North Dakota University System, urged for the people of North Dakota to build on the lead that already exists. With tight budgets, oil down, agriculture down, the Chancellor stated that now is the time to diversify ND’s economy through people and technology. Dr. Hagerott revealed two macro technological revolutions underway:
Intelligent machines in motion: Robots and UAS
Intelligent machines at rest: Big Data
Within these revolutions, the Chancellor explained that tech-leaders have three tasks:
Create the technology (robots, routers, etc.)
Control the technology (the cyber problem)
Civilize the technology (ethics, law, policy)
Dr. Hagerott educated the audience with the third new realm- autonomous machine realm, which will greatly impact the social-human realm and the human-machine realm if cyber power is not contained. The Chancellor explained the urgency and importance of cyber challenges, with global networks, global supply chain, workforces and systems all connected digitally, cyber power needs to be regulated. The Army National Guard, Defense Science Board, US Air Force and US Navy, Department of Transportation, Department of Energy, Georgia/Florida/Oregon/WY University Systems, State of Colorado, State of Maryland, and the State of Iowa, are all Universities and organizations addressing cyber problems.
“I just wanted to commend all of our business leaders here, professors, legislatures; North Dakota is uniquely positioned in the field of unmanned systems, big state, cheap energy, incredible workforce, campuses with high moral and innovative people,” explained Dr. Hagerott. The Chancellor talked about the North Dakota University System’s major initiative, Nexus North Dakota. Nexus North Dakota brings together the learning and the research across 11 campuses to the major research centers, including Minot’s research center referred to as the flagship of the West. Nexus North Dakota comes together for unmanned systems data analytics and cyber security.
“I encourage Minot. You are so well positioned with the Air Base (MAFB), the energy hub you have here, the university, vibrant community, with the extended university system,” explained the Chancellor, “This is not a fad, this is going to change the planet.”
With UAVs as the theme of 2016’s “Bridging the Atlantic” Business to Business Seminar, many business leaders throughout the community acknowledged 2016’s B2B as the best seminar thus far hosted by the Minot Area Development Corporation, Minot State University, and the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce.