Williston Economic Development hosted a Workhorse Aerospace demonstration showcasing the latest advances in Unmanned Aerial Systems.
Held at the former Sloulin Field International Airport hangar, the demonstration also featured guests from TrainND Northwest and Vantis. Workhorse Aerospace is a division of Workhorse Technologies in Loveland, Ohio. The company is designing and working towards FAA type certification of its small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS) called the HorseFly, which visitors got to see in action on Tuesday.
The primary mission for the HorseFly UAS is small package delivery, focusing on the market for 10 lbs. delivered up to 10-miles. Visitors watched as the HorseFly flew around the former airport, carrying a small parcel.
Workhorse has been working with the Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS) to partner in programs such as Vantis and eventually Beyond Visual Line of Sight operations.
“One of the big emerging technologies that we’re experiencing here in Williston and the region is the rise of unmanned aerial systems,” Economic Development Director Shawn Wenko told the Williston Herald. “That’s due in part to the Vantis network, which is the statewide non-visual line of sight network that the State of North Dakota has funded. We’re now seeing a lot of companies that want to test their technology on the network, and they’re reaching out to us to find an area, find opportunities on how they can test that.”
A recent trip to northwest North Dakota convinced Workhorse that Williston and Watford City would be ideal locations to operate and test the HorseFly as part of their type certification process.
“We were impressed by the hospitality of both cities and the outstanding support for UAS that the communities and the State of North Dakota provides. Our intent is to begin full durability and reliability testing in the Spring 2022 in Williston and Watford City,” said Mike Gerdes, Manager of Regulatory Compliance of Workhorse Aerospace.
TrainND Northwest, a division of Williston State College, was on hand to display its latest expansion for technical training into Unmanned Aerial Systems or drones. Students from Williston High School’s aviation class chatted with TrainND representatives about their newest venture, ASCENT.
“In April of 2022 ASCENT Unmanned Aeronautical Academy will start its first cohort of students to be trained in Beyond Visual Line of Sight operations,” said Kenley Nebeker, Regional Director of TrainND Northwest. “This training will be key in preparing the future workforce of North Dakota and even the nation for the endless possibilities that are becoming available as Beyond Visual Line of Sight flight is made available for commercial use.”
“This is a program that we’ve worked extensively with our state leadership to provide some funding opportunities to help with the training program for unmanned aerial systems,” Wenko said of the ASCENT program.