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UVU bidding to own the skies: Aviation department heads alliance to become FAA test facility for domestic drone use

By Jonathan Boldt

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, March 13 2013 9:40 a.m. MDT

Aside from the training facility, the use of UAV’s at UVU has become integrated into a new degree that teaches students how to use these vehicles in many different capacities aside from popular conception, including guidelines from the Department of Homeland Security.

As first reported at the UVU Review, Dr. Jeff Maxfield, a former fire chief and associate dean of at the school of Public Services and now acting as associate professor in the Department of Emergency services said, “This is not just terrorism. That is what most people think of when they hear Homeland Security, but it’s much bigger than that.”

Dornan added to that sentiment and advocated for the many advantages of using such vehicles.

“What we are going to use these UAS’s for in the private sector is completely different than what they are being used for now,” Dornan said. “So that’s why we don’t use the d-word, in the civilian sector we can use these in case of an avalanche or someone riding a Ski-Doo or a snowboard or whatever, is trapped. We can send a UAS out there and with the infrared cameras and heat seeking technology, we can locate that person with any type of weather, or what time of day and send their exact location back to the person operating it.”

The unmanned vehicles are equipped to handle everything from immigration to agriculture and UVU is set on becoming an industry leader and to carve out its place in a field that is open to many possibilities.

“See, that will be all the things we will be using UAS’s for, they will really help the population in emergency responses. And now they have this term that’s called precise agriculture. Where you can have a UAS fly over a field of say fruit, and with their infrared technology, they will be able to tell the farmers within days, when this area should be harvested," Dornan said.

"So there will be no waste and you’ll probably see the cost of fruits and vegetables come down, because they’ll know when they are harvesting this crop it is ready because the UAS told them," he said.

There are also economic impacts that will be felt by this program.

“Depending on the size, local law enforcement are able to use UAS’s right now. It’s going to be a very welcome addition to the aviation field. It will have an enormous impact on the U.S. economy — hundreds of billions of dollars. It will have an enormous impact in the state of Utah if we get that site. It will have a huge impact on the region,” Dornan said.

“The cost of flying helicopters is enormous, plus it’s dangerous, but with a UAS you can do it for one-sixteenth of the cost, at least that. And there’s no danger, if it get’s caught up in something or goes down, there’s nobody on board so there will be no fatalities. Whoever is operating it could be sitting here in this office and be flying something over mountains 50 miles from here.”

While much of what will come is up in the air at the moment, one thing is certain: UVU is having an impact that is being felt and will continue to push the envelope in the development of these unmanned as well as manned aircraft.

“Whenever I fly, I pop my head in the door if I get the chance and ask where they were trained, and I bet you it’s a 50/50 shot they’ll say UVU,” Dornan said. “So the neat thing about this college is there’s nothing that occurs in this college that doesn’t touch the lives of everyday people. Not only in the United States, but particularly in Utah.”

The announcement of who will be awarded the test site is not expected to be announced until later this summer.

Jonathan Boldt is a sports writing intern for the Deseret News covering the Utah Valley. He can be reached at jonboldt@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @jboldt24 - www.boldted.com

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