Editor’s Note: With its wide-open skies, diverse airspace – and one of the most robust aviation, defense and space industries in the world – Arizona is poised to be at the forefront of the surging Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) industry. TechConnect asked two UAS experts – one from academia; the other from industry – to discuss the future of the industry, its practical applications and why they believe Arizona is a great place to test ideas and innovations in this exciting new chapter of aerial flight.

1. Can you explain what Embry Riddle is doing to prepare the future workforce in UAS technology?
Due to the rapid and ever-changing advances in UAV technology, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) Prescott has continued to acquire both hardware and software that is currently being utilized in the UAS industry. One of the issues with the UAS industry is its rapid growth. At Embry Riddle, we put a high priority on partnering with leaders in UAV technology, like Insitu and Hood Tech. These partnerships allow our students to get hands-on training with technology that would otherwise be too expensive or impractical to purchase. Partnering with these types of industry leaders enables ERAU Prescott to stay at the forefront of new technology while exposing our students to UAS companies.

2. What makes your programs unique?
The UAS degree offers our students the ability to build, program, simulate, fly, and perform real-life UAS missions for customers. The UAS degree program at ERAU Prescott is truly one of a kind with the available partnerships and access to equipment that is not offered at any other university.

3. Arizona is launching the new AZSkyTech program, which is envisioned to lead the way in positioning the state as a premier place in the world to responsibly test, deploy and advance commercial UAS technology and policy. Why is it smart for states to make it a priority to encourage the development of the commercial UAS sector?
Unmanned technology in general is becoming a massive market. The UAS industry has been hindered by regulatory issues for many years. As those issues are being resolved, the application for UAS across a wide spectrum is becoming more apparent. Many businesses are seeing areas where they could benefit from UAS. If states encourage this type of development, I believe there is both an economic and technological benefit.


4. In your opinion, what makes Arizona a great testing ground?
Arizona has excellent weather, various climates, deserts, mountains, open space and countless other reasons.


5. How important is it for a school like yours to have the support of government and business to really embrace the industry, and perhaps limit overly burdensome regulations that would hinder innovation in this space?
It is crucial to our UAS program to have partners. There must be collaboration and a team effort to be at the forefront of UAS technology because our industry is changing constantly. Without support from all entities, whether private or public, solutions that are attainable can get lost in the black hole of governmental bureaucracy. In short, for any state to be successful in UAS advancement, we need the support of state and local government, which we’re fortunate to have here in Arizona.