According to the Bismarck Tribune, Tioga, North Dakota will host a drone camp for kids this summer.

It appears as though it will be open to just 100 students free of charge. We can only hope that in the future this camp expands significantly. And if you can, you should absolutely 100% send your kid to drone camp. Especially in North Dakota.

When you think North Dakota, you think oil and farming. But for a few years now, North Dakota has also been all about drones.

North Dakota is home to the Northern Plains UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) Test Site, the largest test site of its kind in the United States.

The state works with UND and NDSU in its effort and even invested $34 million into the endeavor.

Organizations like NASA, Northrop Grumman, and the U.S. Air Force all test drones right here in North Dakota.

Earlier this month, North Dakota sent its aerospace leaders to AUVSI Exponential, the largest trade show for unmanned and robotic systems in the world. North Dakota has led the charge in the drone world and it is no wonder the NY Times back in December called North Dakota the 'Silicon Valley for Drones.'

But why invest so heavily in drones? PwC released a report back on May 9 saying that drones could replace $127 billion in labor costs 'in the near future.'

The labor force it can help with would benefit North Dakota immensely. The report breaks down how much money drones can save in specific industries. Quartz put that data together in a nice chart.

According to the report, drones will save "infrastructure" $45.2 billion. That "infrastructure" umbrella includes the "oil and gas industries." Drones will make this industry safer as well. Now, many workers need to climb up on tall stacks to search for leakages in oil pipes. A drone would make this work much easier and safer.

The PwC report also says that drones would save the agriculture industry $32.4 billion.

Of course drones will help these industries no matter where the drones are tested. So why is North Dakota trying to have all these companies test their drones in our state?

Brian Opp is the Manager of Aerospace Business Development for the North Dakota Department of Commerce. I asked him this very question.

Having interested companies test their technology in North Dakota increases the likelihood that the eventual commercialization of these products may occur in North Dakota.  It exposes companies to North Dakota’s pro-business and drone-friendly environment.  It enables new connections with North Dakota stakeholders (such as our research universities, Grand Sky business park, or any of our emerging private sector drone companies) that may lead to strategic partnerships.

The last point about strategic partnerships can be a two-way street.  Companies are attracted to North Dakota because of our testing capabilities and our growing cluster of activity and stakeholders. In turn, North Dakota stakeholders may realize new business opportunities through connecting with the companies coming to the state for our testing capabilities.

In short, having a top-notch drone test site represents a unique competitive advantage that opens the door for potential economic growth and diversification in North Dakota via the emerging commercial drone market.

We are already seeing companies, both domestic and international, establishing new presences in North Dakota with expectations for growth. Personally, I am excited about the potential impact this new industry can have in North Dakota.

My message to Tioga is this. Please allow more than 100 kids to attend your drone camp. And my message to parents of children in High School is this. Sign your kids up for drone camp right now.

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