PRESCOTT -- Yavapai College has become one of two public educational institutions in Arizona authorized to fly small, unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS), thus allowing the College to develop new sUAS training programs at its Chino Valley center.
Authorization comes in the form of a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate these systems for agriculture and forestry uses. The University of Arizona is the only other public educational institution in Arizona awarded a COA.
Yavapai College now may conduct operations under the rules of the COA. YC is looking into developing new programs to teach students how to collect, analyze and report data to support agriculture, forestry and other industries that may benefit from the emerging technologies.
“We’re excited about this opportunity to be a leader in training tomorrow’s workforce for this emerging industry,” said Stuart Blacklaw, vice president of instruction and student services.
Agriculture and forestry uses for the sUAS technology, along with related employment opportunities, are increasing rapidly. For instance, UAS rotorcraft can thermally scan fields for fertilizer deficiencies or detect heat changes in cattle that indicate when an animal is ready to breed. The aircraft can help forest fire fighters detect changes in fire patterns and potential hazards, and photograph damaged forest areas for analysis and control recommendations.
The Chino Valley campus includes 80 acres of rural property off of Old Home Manor Drive, which meets the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements for being far enough away from airports and residential areas to qualify for the research-based sUAS COA.
The college will initially lease a Lynx radio-controlled aircraft manufactured by Swift Radioplanes, LLC to conduct scheduled flights that will collect imagery to be analyzed for training in existing academic programs. The Lynx is a fixed-wing electric motor aircraft with an 8-foot wingspan that can carry a variety of equipment, such as multi-spectral and thermal-imaging cameras. The aircraft will be flown only over Yavapai College property on its campus in Chino Valley. The craft will be operated below 400 feet, under line-of-site radio control.
Yavapai College, which opened in 1969, provides quality higher learning, cultural resources and economic development support for the diverse populations of Yavapai County. The College offers a wide range of academic programs to students at the College’s centers in Prescott (main campus), Clarkdale (the Verde Valley Campus), Prescott Valley, Chino Valley, Sedona and the Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC) near the Prescott Airport.