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Fargo Is Focused On Drones

By Patrick C. Miller | January 28, 2016

Living in a city that bears the name of a popular movie and now a TV series is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because so many people have heard of Fargo, North Dakota. It’s a curse because they sometimes think the Hollywood version is indicative of what the people and the place are really like.

Yesterday, my UAS Magazine colleague Ann Bailey and I made the hour-long trip south to Fargo on Interstate 29 to participate in the monthly DroneFocus meeting. This event is sponsored by Emerging Prairie, an organization founded in 2013 to connect Fargo’s “entrepreneurial ecosystem.” The goal is to bring together the city’s innovators and entrepreneurs to turn Fargo into a tech hub with unmanned aerial systems (UAS) playing a major role in the venture.

The DroneFocus meeting was held in the Prairie Den, a unique facility that’s part of the Emerging Prairie concept. It’s located in the heart of downtown Fargo which—unlike many cities—actually has a vibrant and flourishing downtown. The Prairie Den provides rented workspace for individuals, businesses and teams on the remodeled second floor of an old bank building featuring the work of local artists.

I’d been invited by the DroneFocus organizers to speak about pitching stories to the UAS media. I started my professional career working for a daily newspaper, moved to the public relations and media relations field for 30 years and then returned to the media fold with UAS Magazine. So I’ve been both the thrower and the catcher of numerous pitches—also known as story ideas. I spoke on what to do and what not to do when working with the UAS media.

From the moment Ann and I stepped in the door at the Prairie Den, it was obvious the space is occupied by people doing serious work. In typical Northern Plains fashion, they went out of their way to welcome us and make us feel at home. We were pleasantly surprised that the attendance for DroneFocus was twice what we expected. The attendees asked good questions that led to interesting discussions.

Among the many people I met with direct or indirect interests in the UAS industry was Dusty Jostad, an aviation safety inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Flight Standards District Office in Fargo. A former Predator B pilot with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Air Force Base, Jostad shared his thoughts on UAS from the FAA’s perspective.

It’s always a pleasure to meet someone like Jostad with a special interest in and knowledge of the industry who’s willing to provide insight on UAS regulation. The PR side of me thinks that the FAA should have more employees like him who can interact with the public and effectively communicate the agency’s views on UAS. The media side of me is grateful to have a good FAA source closer to home.

Our trip helps assure that Fargo will remain on the radar of the UAS Magazine staff. We appreciated the opportunity to be part of DroneFocus meeting and to make new and valuable contacts in the UAS world.