Three potential business startups planning to employ drones along with the people who operate them recently reached out to the Yavapai College (YC) Small Business Development Center.
YC is training people to operate drones and program them to accomplish a host of cost-saving and even life-saving missions in dozens of industries.
“Having a drone program is more cutting than lagging edge in economic development,” said Richard Hernandez, Executive Director of YC’s Regional Economic Development Center. “You can sit back and watch this technology pass you by, or you can be involved in the evolution of the technology.”
YC embraced drone training in earnest in 2015, when U.S. Navy veteran Matt Mintzmyer was approached to launch the program while teaching helicopter and fixed-wing aviation for the college.
“So many people have drones in their households, and they don’t know what they’re capable of. They think of drones as just toys or in a negative light,” Mintzmyer said. In reality, he said, “drones are a tool that can accomplish a lot of good.”
For example, Mintzmyer has commanded a drone that helped battle a wildfire in a remote area of Yavapai County. The drone helped firefighters pinpoint hotspots, guided firefighting equipment through heavy smoke and determined where best to deploy water cannons.
Among other things, UAS students inspect solar and agriculture fields for anomalies, conduct aerial inspections of power lines and real estate and even dabble in filmmaking.
Drone-related businesses that have sought YC startup assistance include digital media and construction companies, Hernandez said.
Mintzmyer likened the current business adoption of drones to the dot-com era of the 1990s. People who jumped in early reaped huge rewards.
“This is a great time to start a business and start hiring Yavapai College students,” he said.