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Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation

01/17/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 01/17/2020 09:57

January DroneBiz highlights energy sector

UAS applications in the energy sector was the topic of January's DroneBiz, held at the UND Center for Innovation.

About 40 attended the quarterly networking event, headlined by Kyle Gustofson of Great River Energy (GRE)'s UAS program.

Gustofson, a transmission line engineer by trade, led efforts to develop the program at GRE, saying the idea came about with the safety of the company's line workers in mind. 'We approached it from a safety perspective. It also saves money, but that's not the goal. We had the stats to back it up - it would cut the time our linemen were up (on a transmission pole) in half.'

What began in 2015 as some 'hallway talk' and big ideas morphed into a full-blown initiative to develop a process for UAS implementation, starting with a platform on which to track the many potential uses for drones within the company.

Now, the company uses the drones for everything from wetlands and avian inspections to projects for their corporate communications branch. They've learned how to be strategic about data collection and how to mitigate risk by having operating procedures in place and making sure their pilots understand them.

They've learned the importance of nailing workflows and engaging with the rest of the organization. 'Spending time with our linemen in the field has really helped,' Gustofson said. 'Them knowing they don't have to climb up to inspect, then climb up again to repair was a game changer.'

AUVSI's new chapter president

EDC Business Development Manager Brandon Baumbach opened the meeting by introducing Renee Shelton, UAS Commercialization Specialist at the UND Center for Innovation, as the AUVSI Great Plains Chapte r president.

'I have a lot of good business experience, but I'm best known for my experience in delivering innovative business solutions,' Shelton said. 'UAS is low-hanging fruit in Grand Forks. We have an ecosystem that's second-to-none.'