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Drones have arrived at Camp Ripley, believe it or not

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The Minnesota National Guard has christened a $3.9 million drone facility and training program at Camp Ripley, which will be the only one of its kind in the state, the Associated Press reports.

Officials showed off the new 13,000-square-foot Unmanned Aircraft Operations Facility Friday at a grand opening ceremony, giving the public a chance to see how the unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, work.

But bad weather stopped the real thing from taking flight, the Star Tribune reports, so everyone had to settle for a video instead.

The paper also notes that the Guard has seven UAVs at Camp Ripley: three Shadows, with 14-foot wing spans, and four smaller Ravens, with 5-foot wing spans that can be carried in a backpack, quickly assembled and launched by hand.

Fear not, these drones don't carry weapons, according to the Strib and the AP. They are used for both reconnaissance missions, such as going ahead of convoys to provide information on what’s happening in an area, as well as for surveillance, allowing operators to monitor an area from a bird’s-eye point of view.

The Ripley Reporter says Camp Ripley is a unique area because the camp not only owns the land, but also the air space over the training center. "Collision avoidance" apparently is an issue due to a proliferation of drones backing up air traffic.

"Camp Ripley provides a perfect area to test UAVs," the website quotes one officer as saying, "because the we own the air space so they don't have to worry about other air traffic."

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