UAFS, Arkansas Nat’l Guard Team Up On Drone Tech

Photo: Drew Shoptaw/Agile Aerial Solutions
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Photo: Drew Shoptaw/Agile Aerial Solutions 

(Greenwood Democrat) The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith has reached an agreement with the Arkansas National Guard to collaborate in regards to the university’s unmanned aerial systems program, a mutually beneficial partnership that will elevate the UAS program while allowing the National Guard to utilize the technology.

The agreement will allow UAFS to use ranges and training areas at Fort Chaffee for students to fly unmanned aircraft, better known as drones. In return, students will perform applied learning exercises that will provide data to the Fort Chaffee to assist their environmental and natural resources program.

According to David Pollman, director of unmanned aerial systems at UAFS, the partnership also creates a symbiotic recruiting relationship between the two entities.

“One of our targets for this degree is the military and veteran community, and partnering with the National Guard allows us to tap into those populations while showing a way they can transition from active duty military to a civilian,” Pollman said. “At the same time, units operating at Fort Chaffee will be able to engage our students and potentially recruit them to the military.”

On Nov. 15, UAFS showcased its collaboration with the National Guard by taking the University of Arkansas System representatives and Board of Trustees to the Fort Chaffee range for a drone demonstration.

Dr. Edward Serna, interim chancellor at UAFS, was a driving force behind the development of the UAS program in his previous role as vice chancellor for strategic initiatives after noticing the tremendous potential for job growth in the field. In a study by the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International, the unmanned aircrafts systems industry is forecast to create more than 600 jobs and nearly $500 million in economic impact in Arkansas in the next 10 years.

Serna said the partnership is a crucial development for the program.

“When we first discussed the possibility of an unmanned aerial systems program, we knew we had to do it right if we wanted it to be the national level program that we envisioned,” Serna said. “This partnership is one of the many steps we’re taking to ‘do it right.’ This collaboration will create recruiting pathways for both agencies while providing real-world learning opportunities for our students.”

UAFS welcomed its first class of students this fall to the associate degree program in unmanned aerial systems. Pollman said the National Guard is the first in what he hopes is several partnerships the university forms with agencies.

For more information on the program, contact Pollman at 479-788-7772 or