N.D. Drone Camp Inspires Future Pilots

TIOGA, N.D. – A free camp for kids in Tioga may have launched the careers of future drone pilots.

About 75 students attended a two-day drone camp in the northwest North Dakota town, with every participant taking home a drone after learning the basics.

“The goal of the program is to instill children with the desire to move into the 21st century with technology,” said Dennis Lindahl, economic development consultant for Tioga.

Enel Green Power North America, which is developing a new wind farm north of Tioga, sponsored the event and presented on career opportunities for unmanned aerial vehicles. The U.S. Air Force also gave a presentation to the students about careers in the military.

“The idea here is to inspire these kids to be the next generation of drone pilots,” said Keith Aubin with Enel.

About 70 participants in the Tioga Drone Camp prepare to fly their drones on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, in Tioga, N.D. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service
About 70 participants in the Tioga Drone Camp prepare to fly their drones on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, in Tioga, N.D. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

David Hollyday, 16, Lignite, was among the participants excited about potential for drones.

“I think this could be a huge field in the future,” Hollyday said.

The participants, going into sixth through 12th grades, learned about safety and privacy issues related to drones. Students also watched flying demonstrations and got hands-on practice flying their drones in a hangar at the Tioga airport.

Joseph Sirois, who is going into sixth grade in Stanley, said he enjoyed learning the basics of flying and getting a free drone to take home to practice.

“It’s actually equipped with a really cool camera that you can go up and down with,” Sirois said. “We’re basically learning by experiencing it, which is a really fun way of doing it.”

His father, Randy Sirois, whose oil industry job brought the family from New York to North Dakota more than four years ago, said he’s glad communities in the Bakken are doing more to provide opportunities for families.

“These smaller communities, they want to invest in the kids,” Randy Sirois said. “They want it to be a community, not just a place to live.”

Tioga, traditionally known as the Oil Capital of North Dakota, is working to diversify its economy and become known as the Energy and Innovation Capital. Enel also donated a drone to the Tioga schools for use in the classroom.