Tioga Commission approves development loan for UAS drones

TIOGA – After a long consideration process the Tioga City Commission approved a development loan for $30,000 to AeroFleet One to bring cutting edge unmanned aircraft systems to the region.

The Tioga Economic Development expects to meet the Tioga Commission’s challenge to expand the “Drone Camp for Kids” from K-12 education by expanding into adult pilot training programs and foster the UAS industry in the area and provide new technology opportunities in the region.

The process began last August when AeroFleet One competed in the Tioga Innovation Competition during the “Drone Camp for Kids” sponsored in part by the Williston Regional Economic Development Corp.

Chris Norgaard, president of the Tioga Economic Development Corp. and the Tioga Airport, said “UAS presents a unique opportunity for western N.D. that should be explored.”

As part of the loan agreement, the company currently based in Ukraine and founded by former European Microsoft Executive Yuri Pederiy will have a new division located in Tioga, establish local operations, and train and hire pilots locally.

Originally designed as a precision agriculture technology, the capabilities of the airframe allow for versatility in its use including carrying payloads such as sensors and cameras. The petroleum fueled drone with its 15-foot wingspan and a payload of nearly 100 pounds has the capability of nearly six hours of flight. This will provide tremendous range for various payloads including monitors and sensors to service the energy, oil and gas industry.

David Grubb, chairperson of the Tioga Fund, said he thinks they “have reached a fair arrangement that will minimize risk for the new startup.”

Once the equipment arrives in Tioga there will be a process of Federal Aviation Administration approval, test flights and considerations for Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) but Tioga EDC expects that immediate ground operations and training will begin this spring.

Tioga will hold its third annual “Drone Camp for Kids,” a free program open to 7th-12th graders held the first weekend in August.