The Northern Plains UAS Test Site conducted demonstration flights at the former Sloulin Field International Airport as part of the state's Unmanned Aircraft Systems network.
City of Williston officials joined team members from Northern Plains and Vantis, North Dakota’s statewide unmanned aircraft systems network, at the former Sloulin Field hangar for the demonstration. Vantis will enable UAS, or drone, flights beyond visual line of sight in McKenzie and Williams counties, with additional locations to cover the entire state once the key site is validated. Part of that validation includes extensive testing of the network. Earlier this year, the VOLY C10 fixed-wing delivery drone was selected by the UAS used to complete that testing and validation.
"It's a pretty historic day for Williston," said Economic Development Executive Director Shawn Wenko. "We're going to see the Volansi C10 take off on one of the first take-offs from the new Williston Square. It's going to open up an area of huge innovation for us. Unmanned Aerial Systems and Beyond Visual Line of Site will be commonplace across the globe someday. But today, North Dakota is the leader. Vantis is happening and the first phase is going up in western North Dakota. I couldn’t be more excited for the potential this will bring to our area.”
Volansi CEO Hannan Parvizian shared a short video demonstrating some of the capabilities of the unmanned system. As Parvizian explained, the video showed the C10 in action, taking off from one location carrying a payload of medical supplies, which could then be delivered to remote locations. the drone's vertical take-off ability was one of the highlights, with Parvizian noting that it allowed for the drones to take off from virtually any flat surface.
Parvizian added that the oil and gas industry in the state lends perfectly to the beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) testing, and that the drones could be an asset to the industry to help deliver critical parts, spare parts and information. He stated that North Dakota has a wealth of talent when it comes to unmanned aircraft operators, and that he'd always hoped to create a partnership with the University of North Dakota to train and hire operators.
"I can't express my gratitude for the support and the outreach that we've been able to have for bringing Vantis out to western North Dakota," said Nicholas Flom, executive director of NPUASTS. “We’re excited to get the VOLY C10 in the air, and to make some connections with local leaders. We continue to move forward toward achieving this first-of-its-kind, world-class, BVLOS network, right here in North Dakota.”
City of Williston officials are enthusiastic about the industry’s future in the area.
“We’re very excited to welcome the Northern Plains UAS Test Site to western North Dakota,” said David Tuan, administrator for the City of Williston. “The potential for economic and industry growth in Williston comes at an opportune time and we couldn’t be happier about showcasing Williston Square as a launching pad for advanced unmanned flights.”
Initial flights in the McKenzie and Williams counties area will test installed network components, perform use-case development flights, ensure network safety and reliability, and help Northern Plains UAS set the standard requirements for any aircraft seeking to fly on the Vantis network. Once validated, Vantis would be open for commercial BVLOS flights.