Tech Connect Summer 2018

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05 Eye in the Sky 06 Supply On Demand 08 Data Mining


PUBLISHERS Sandra Watson Steven G. Zylstra


Don Rodriguez




Susan E. Marie

Arizona talent grows into key providers for UAV industry

ART DIRECTOR Erin Loukili Lucky You! Creative



Jaclyn Threadgill


Kerry Bennett, Emily Dieckman, Elizabeth Farquhar, Neville Judd, Jason Kadah, Sheila Kloefkorn, Steve Yozwiak E-MAIL For queries or customer service call 602-343-8324 TechConnect is published by the Arizona Technology Council, 2800 N. Central Ave. #1530, Phoenix, AZ 85004.





Weather tracker just one role for Tucson-born idea.

Drones offer modern methods to extract information.



AZSkyTech to take state to a higher level.

Entire contents copyright 2018, Arizona Technology Council. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. Products named in these page pages are trade names or trademarks of their respective companies. Publication of TechConnect is supported by the Arizona Commerce Authority.


Also Inside

04 Publisher’s Letter

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018 Logo 2

016 Governor’s Letter 017 Northern Arizona University 018 Arizona State University 019 TGen 020 The University of Arizona SUMMER 2018 AZTECHCONNECT.COM


Publisher's Letter

The Sky’s the Limit nyone who knows me will tell you I’m constantly learning. If something is new, different and future facing, I’d like to know more. And when it has the potential of fueling Arizona’s economic engine, I’m more than a little interested. That definitely captures my sentiments about unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the topic for this issue of TechConnect. Whether you call them UAVs, unmanned aircraft systems or unmanned aerial systems (both UAS), or simply drones, these flying phenomena are tailor-made for Arizona. Great weather and wide-open skies combine to make this the best proving ground for what they can do. If you need proof, consider that Fort Huachuca maintains the largest unmanned aircraft systems training facility in the world. While the military indeed has led the way in research and development of the aircraft, thanks to resources that would be the envy of any company, UAVs’ constant visibility lately in the commercial and even hobbyist markets has caught our attention. I’d be surprised if you haven’t been buzzed by one in your own neighborhood. But they are far from novelty items. The industry is quickly growing into an economic powerhouse. In its 2018 World Civil UAS Market Profile and Forecast, the aerospace and defense industry analysts at Teal Group project non-military UAS production will total $88.3 billion in the next decade, jumping from $4.4 billion worldwide





in 2018 to $13.1 billion in 2027. The forecast includes commercial, consumer and civil government systems. Commercial use alone will surpass the consumer drone market in 2024, becoming the biggest segment of the civil market. That’s the world. Let’s fine tune to see where Arizona fits in. According to the Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation and Aerospace Arizona, we are No. 5 in the nation among states obtaining the most economic gains from UAS. Over the next decade, the economic impact of incorporating UAS into the national airspace system is expected to be $3.4 billion in the commercial market with $15.5 million in state tax revenue. But UAVs are more than just figures on spreadsheets. There are stories to tell behind every success in the industry. That’s where TechConnect comes in. In this issue, we’ll introduce you to the people and companies that are creating their own niche in this rapidly expanding community. Whether it’s a major player like Raytheon taking a homegrown idea and making it bigger, a former Royal Air Force pilot who is leaving a mark in our civilian airspace or even local talent that evolved into feeding the global UAV supply chain, theirs are just some of the stories that will give you a look at the successes in our own backyard. Arizona is just scratching the surface when it comes to the UAV industry. I’m more than anxious to see where we land!

Close+up: Focusing on Significant Topics Affecting Technology

Tucson-born idea critical to hurricane tracking, defense Joe Cione, NOAA hurricane researcher and chief scientist of the Coyote unmanned aircraft system program, holds the UAS in front of NOAA’s P-3 Hurricane Hunter.


hen Raytheon Company made the move to purchase Tucson-based Sensintel in 2015, it was a win-win for all involved. Pete Mangelsdorf offers TechConnect readers an update on what’s happened since the company became part of Raytheon Missile Systems, where he is director, Advanced Unmanned Air Systems.

While Sensintel was making a name with the Coyote before the purchase, how did partnering with Raytheon make a difference to take this UAS to another level?

That was a great acquisition for us, for Coyote and for our customers. Sensintel had developed a UAS with great potential in Coyote, and Raytheon has significantly enhanced the original design, taking advantage of our engineering powerhouse and tremendous customer relationships. As a result, Coyote has become a major game changer for our customers in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), as well as provided the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) a highly successful new capability for tracking hurricanes. Future variants of Coyote will fly farther and faster. There is now significant worldwide interest in Raytheon’s Coyote. And what did this small company bring to Raytheon?

Raytheon was already working with Sensintel on several projects when it became clear an acquisition would provide benefits to both. For Raytheon, it’s often good business to acquire an already developed product, and work to enhance it and



grow its potential as a product rather than start from a clean sheet of paper. This also works to the advantage of the small company that is acquired because it provides much needed investment for improvements as well as introduction to many customers beyond their reach. We are always eager to work with small businesses that have new ideas. Sensintel being located in Tucson was certainly a plus factor. Great ideas and products can come from anywhere—small companies and large ones. Can you share more details about Coyote’s role with NOAA?

Coyote has provided NOAA with an outstanding new tool for tracking and modeling hurricane behavior. Because Coyote can move through the storms and revisit certain areas of the hurricane, NOAA has produced its most accurate storm models to date—and that can save lives. Coyote can also fly up to 50 miles from the P-3 Hurricane Hunter aircraft, keeping scientists out of harm’s way as they collect vital storm data. What makes Tucson the place for UAS work as far as Raytheon is concerned?

Tucson’s abundance of sunny days and clear skies make it an ideal location for developing and testing aircraft of all types. That’s one of the reasons there are so many military bases located in Arizona. With more than 6,000 engineers working at Raytheon in Tucson and more coming to us every day from The University of Arizona, Tucson is a great place to develop Coyote and other solutions for DoD customers. SUMMER 2018 AZTECHCONNECT.COM



SUPPLY ON DEMAND Arizona heritage serves modern UAV industry well


hen considering the supply chain needed to keep unmanned aerial vehicles flying, the roots run fairly deep through southern Arizona. While many companies throughout the nation and beyond can trace their supply chain to Unmanned Systems Source (USS), the leadership of the Tucson company says it was another company where they were among the talent pool that grew into sources for the industry. Long before Drew Osbrink became chief operating officer for USS parent GST Holdings, he was an intern at Advanced Ceramics Research (ACR). Also there at the same time was Jennifer Jerrick, who was handling government contracts. She now is president and CEO of GST Holdings. Osbrink explains ACR had been known for making ceramic engine parts. That was before the U.S. Navy needed help to keep its



ships from running into whales. The solution was ACR’s small unmanned aircraft, which in the post-9/11 era led to increased development of unmanned aircraft for the military. The small company “was able to leverage the small business innovation and research grant out of the government to develop new technologies and commercialize those,” Osbrink says. “That became the genesis of their small unmanned systems products and services.” This move also triggered others’ focusing on what was happening in Tucson. First, ACR was purchased by the British multinational BAE Systems, which worked on unmanned systems development. The company then was sold to a private owner, becoming Sensintel, which ultimately became known for providing UAVs for the intelligence and special operations markets. Under Sensintel, Jerrick began working with Matt Pobloske, who approached her with the


idea of starting what would become USS. With her experience handling contracts, Jerrick was getting calls from people she knew at various companies who would ask for recommendations of where to get a sensor or a particular type of technology. “Hey, people are coming to us for this information, so why don’t we start offering that?” she recalls thinking. About the same time, Raytheon was showing some interest in what was happening at Sensintel, unintentionally shaping a new direction for Jerrick’s and Osbrink’s careers. “At that point, I just solely took over Unmanned Systems Source and he was separating himself from all things unmanned,” Jerrick says of Pobloske making the move to Raytheon when it purchased Sensintel and its product line. Looking back at the changes Osbrink went through, he recalls his commute continued to take him to “the same office but I worked for five different legal entities during that time.” The changes also brought new trajectories for some of the others whose careers could be traced back to ACR. Jerrick says former co-workers went on to start UAV firms such as Latitude Engineering, HFE International and BrockTek—all based in Tucson. “We all just kind of went off and started these companies, whether it was engineering or manufacturing,” she says. Another company was AUV Flight Services, which handles pilot services and ultimately became part of GST Holdings. While USS primarily provides parts and procurement solutions for customers, “it’s nice to be able to pair them up right away with some pilots, whether it’s for us to do that all the time or just train them,” Jerrick says of what the sister company brings to the mix. That includes bringing in pilots who may only work on a particular contract, she says. “Our aim is to bring synergy between those two companies with similar industry focuses and objectives,” Osbrink says.

While USS has the e-commerce component in place, it’s the procurement assistance that has been its strong suit since day one. “Just think of it as having a full-time buyer that they don’t have to employ, so they can send us a bill of materials or a complete list of products that they need,” Jerrick says. “We can source those; negotiate the best pricing; stock them here perhaps, which will help with their lead time; and they just have to come to one place because we do all that. They trust that they can get all of this information in one spot.” Add to that a knowledge of the technology. “What we’re really good at is understanding highly technical unmanned systems solutions,” Osbrink says. For example, that can mean serving companies that do solar or infrastructure inspection, as well as military applications. “We’ve been as an organization focusing heavily recently on developing and pursuing highly technical solutions for our customer base,” he says. And sometimes the solution isn’t as easy something that sits on a shelf waiting for a buyer. Jerrick says that’s when she turns to the engineers on staff like Osbrink, whose expertise includes aerospace. “While I may not be at times in the weeds designing the solutions, I certainly work with the team collectively on determining the technical strategy,” says Osbrink, who also carries the title of solutions engineer for USS. “And that is really appealing to me.” For Jerrick, her enthusiasm for the UAV field hasn’t waned, even without formal engineering training. You can credit the constant immersion in the new and different, especially being able to maintain her career in Arizona. “I think over time in 20 years you definitely learn about all the stuff that is going on, the technology,” she says. “But that can sometimes be a challenge, and that’s why I love sitting in a room with a lot of smart technical guys who know exactly what they’re talking about,” she says with a laugh. SUMMER 2018 AZTECHCONNECT.COM




DATA MINING UAVs improve ways to extract information, reshape industry BY NEVILLE JUDD


rones, otherwise known as unmanned aerial vehicle systems (UAV or UAS), are beginning to have a profound effect on mining. Tucson-based Hexagon Mining is among the companies shaping change by applying UAVs to solve challenges in the industry: better blast optimization, improved safety, faster surveying, and construction of the most comprehensive and continuous project datasets. “Foot traffic is not allowed or is ill-advised in many parts of a mine,” explains UAS Sales Manager Bryan Baker of Leica Geosystems, a Hexagon subsidiary. “Obtaining measurements with a surveying rod, total station or GNSS (global navigation satellite system) can be problematic. UAV aerial photography and remote sensing allow us to capture all that information without putting someone in harm’s way.” Whether it’s for blast fragmentation, stockpile volumes or any other mine-related activity, data can be captured quickly and safely in near real time from areas that would otherwise be inaccessible or unsafe for staff. Leica Geosystems is pushing the boundaries of photogrammetry—measurements from photography—with its newly renovated UAV line featuring the Leica Aibot. Equipped with a high level of artificial intelligence, these UAVs create high-resolution images and videos. The Aibot also offers the possibility to adapt varying kinds of sensors, such as hyper- and multispectral sensors, infrared and thermal sensors, and sensors for other industry-specific missions. Data captured by the Aibot and the software solutions of Leica Geosystems and Hexagon allow mines to generate orthophotos, 3D models and high-density point clouds with



great accuracy. An orthophoto is an aerial photograph from which distortions due to camera tilt and ground relief are removed, Leica Aibot providing the same scale throughout the image like that on a map. A point cloud is a set of data points in space. “It’s crazy how much time we save by using the multicopter,” says Magnus Myhre, daily manager at Norwegian firm Asker Oppmaling AS. “We can control the Aibot hexacopter from a central location, which saves us the laborious task of having to walk through the pit.” The company tested the UAV at an 81.5-acre stone quarry near Oslo. Asker compared the ground control points that were measured conventionally with those measured using the UAV. The result: Values measured using the UAV are extremely precise. It usually would take up to four weeks just to survey the quarry using conventional methods. Hexagon Mining’s mine planning software is well-equipped to handle point clouds. “Its point-cloud data type features a high level of detail-rendering capability akin to a gaming rendering,” says Johnny Lyons-Baral, Hexagon Mining’s technical sales specialist. “The software can display billions of points at a time, averaging out points in the pixels with level detail rendering, saving computer memory while displaying high-resolution images. “Our Point Cloud Mesher turns large data sets into topographic surfaces, tunnels, drifts and stopes, and any other solids and surfaces available from point clouds. It allows mines to quickly go from field capture to usable data for optimization,” he says. The digital mine of the future will need remote surveying sensors along with automated control and processing software to create complete digital project models. And that future is closer than you might think! NEVILLE JUDD is communications director of Hexagon Mining.




Adam Watts

n his career as a squadron leader in the Royal Air Force, Adam Watts piloted the AH-64D Apache, the CH-47 Chinook and the Bell 412—all helicopters with very distinct missions. But it was his experience guiding another type of large aircraft that helped set his trajectory for a new life and career when it came time to join the civilian ranks. Flying large unmanned aircraft is what ultimately led Watts to co-found Desert Drones Imagery with wife Shayna. An example was a nearly three-year assignment piloting unmanned military vehicles in the skies over Afghanistan within 500 feet of manned aircraft—all while he was stationed in Nevada. “What gave us the idea (for the company) really was I was one of the pioneers certainly in the British Air Force and arguably in the American sphere as well in using unmanned aircraft,” he says. “When I say a pioneer, I mean it’s only the last 10, 15 years that these aircraft have been used in combat roles effectively.” Watts has transferred his military experience to the Phoenix-based commercial services company that offers solutions such as industrial inspections, spatial analyses and promotional videos. “We work with people who perhaps don’t understand drones or aerial,” Watts says. “They accept that they don’t have the knowledge or the expertise or the time to invest in people to bring them up to standard. So that’s where we come in to help people get the most out of technology.” An extra is what he calls his “flying discipline” as a trained pilot. “When I say ‘flying discipline,’ I don’t mean just adherence to procedures

Ex-military pilot transfers experience to drone services firm and everything else. I would say it’s a wider flying culture. I think that’s something that’s missing from a lot of drone service companies,” he says. "This, I guess, is the ethos of the company.” This adds a layer of safety despite such innovations as autonomy in flight. “If you rely on technical innovation alone to make you safe, then my opinion is you’re going to increase the risk of an accident,” he says. “People shouldn’t be relying on technology to overcome the common sense of a pilot operating it.” The revolution that’s going on with technology in unmanned commercial flight actually involves data, not the aircraft. “It’s not just about collecting the data,” Watt says. “It’s about analyzing and making that data actionable so that individuals can make decisions based on what they see.” The company is working to make data management simpler by partnering with IBM artificial intelligence to filter the good data from the massive amount of pictures collected during inspections, identify the problems of the target set and make the results actionable. From Watts’ vantage, unmanned aircraft’s potential is just taking off. “People know what they want to do with them but the technology and the safety technology specifically hasn’t caught up,” he says. “Whilst I applaud a lot of the innovations in drones, I think we’re at the Sopwith Camel stage of unmanned systems. Where we’ll be in 10 to 15 years’ time might warrant a different opinion from me.” SUMMER 2018 AZTECHCONNECT.COM



CHARTING A NEW COURSE Embry-Riddle students discover patentable aircraft design BY JASON KADAH

College of Engineering capstone project at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott Campus is receiving a lot of attention both inside and outside the university. The Innovative Performance Enhancements for VTOL Aircraft (IPEVA) program has produced the Conseres (“to fold” in Latin) design for an autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) designed to takeoff vertically—much like a helicopter—then transition into wing-borne flight by changing its patent-pending geometry. The aircraft is also designed to link up with similar AAVs for long endurance flight, increasing the propulsive and aerodynamic efficiency of the aircraft. These features allow Conseres to fly for longer durations, and take off and land in more remote locations than similarly sized drones. “Nothing like this has ever been done before,” says student Lauren Barthenheier. “There was no other published data, no other references for us. So, what we learned will open up a whole new field for configurations of aircraft.” In 2016, Bell (formerly Bell Helicopter) in Fort Worth, Texas, offered to collaborate on aircraft design projects of mutual interest. A project of particular interest involved demonstrating aerodynamic and propulsive efficiencies of combined AAVs. This project was taken up by two competing teams in the College of Engineering’s senior aircraft design course for the fall 2017 semester. One group pursued a conventional configuration with an innovative powertrain while the other pursued an innovative, variable-geometry configuration with a conventional powertrain. The latter design was selected for further



development and the two teams were reformed into one for ground testing and another for flight testing. This work ultimately resulted in two patentable concepts for aerodynamic configurations and the mechanisms needed for those configurations. These concepts could have a significant impact on AAV design for a wide variety of applications, including small package delivery, aerial taxis, remote sensing and military use. “The students at Embry-Riddle really exceeded our expectations. Their design was innovative, and they did a fantastic job with the demonstration vehicle and wind tunnel testing,” says Kirk Groninga, engineer V at Bell and project manager for the collaboration. “This is an easy story to tell because it’s a win-win for everyone involved,” says Billy Crisler, Raisbeck Distinguished Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Embry-Riddle. “The advanced concept and design shops at many aircraft companies have more work to do than they can do. If they’re willing, it’s not hard to carve off pieces of that work that can be performed by teams of talented undergrads at a fraction of the cost compared to doing the work in-house. The students and faculty get to work with professional engineers on real problems and real applications— and the industry sponsors get a close look at the students they’d like to hire. It’s a sound basis for effective, long-term collaboration between Embry-Riddle and industry.” JASON KADAH is communications director at the Embry-Riddle

Aeronautical University campus in Prescott.



Student members of the Conseres project with a model of their aircraft



arketing on a tight budget is a nearly universal experience for new and small businesses making their way through Arizona’s evolving innovation ecosystem. But the sky’s still the limit whether your business is focused on UAVs or another technology. Here are some lessons that owners and teams can apply to get the most out of their investment in marketing: Educate yourself – As a business owner-slash-startup whiz, it is essential to educate yourself on the fundamentals of effective marketing strategy. Knowing the difference between “inbound” and “outbound” marketing, optimizing your website and content to improve SEO, and other measures will help cultivate and capture potential buyers. Find Your Mentor – Part of growing your business means being able to wear the marketing hat when necessary to promote your team’s valuable work. To help you overcome the experience gap, engage with mentors whom you look up to in the marketing space and from whom you can take guidance. Their insight can help get your business through the initial phases of brand recognition and maximize return from your inbound marketing. Be Strategic – Areas such as your website, blog and social media presence can be optimized to help put your messages where customers can find them. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a method of ensuring your website answers the questions that your customers are asking in search engines. It is important for new and small businesses to become fluent in these and other SEO best practices so that

your world-changing ideas funnel to the right audience. Making sure these steps are done strategically is a crucial step toward building your brand, generating new leads and supporting the overall sales channel. Educate your audience – Another cost-effective means of growing your brand is providing thoughtful content to educate your customers and empower them throughout the sales process. Blogs and contributed content, instructional videos, and speaking engagements are high-value ways of engaging with your audience, helping them to become more knowledgeable while promoting your goods and services as a solution to meet their needs. A small business’ social media presence can also be curated to inform and inspire potential customers. It is important to read up on best practices for social media in your field but also not to be afraid to take chances. Social media can act as a proving ground for new or updated marketing messages. Maximize your ROI – For every penny or late-night hour you put into your marketing efforts, you should be able to measure return on investment. Activity on social media and your website, should be measured and tracked to help you gauge the efficiency and effectiveness of your marketing messages. Doing so will enable your business to become more agile and responsive to shifting demands in the marketplace. Eventually you will be able to hire more specialists to help. SHEILA KLOEFKORN is president & CEO of KEO

Marketing Inc. Recently recognized as one of the Top 10 Business Leaders of the Year by the Phoenix Business Journal, she can be reached at skloefkorn@keomarketing. com.



Arizona’s innovative DNA zooms to the skies above


SkyTech n

early every day, new commercial and humanitarian applications are being developed for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) technology, which present incredible opportunities to save lives, speed the delivery of goods and services, and create high-quality jobs. With Arizona’s track record as an innovator and its national reputation as a place to responsibly test new business models, it’s no wonder that the state is now setting its sights on the skies above. The next frontier of aviation exploration is the expansion of UAS testing in our airspace. Here at the Arizona Commerce Authority, we’ve created a new program under Gov. Doug Ducey’s leadership, AZSkyTech, to position the state as the premier place in the world to responsibly test, deploy and advance UAS technology and policy. AZSkyTech will leverage nearly 60 industry partners, academic institutions, state agencies and innovators to safely advance the development and deployment of commercial UAS in Arizona. These are vastly different than military



drones or the ones hobbyists fly at local parks. The commercial, industrial and humanitarian side of this industry is expected to create its own ecosystem of innovators, manufacturers, pilots and other operations, which will help create 100,000 jobs nationally and a cumulative economic impact of $82 billion by 2025. Just last month, there were an estimated 1.1 million registered UAS in the U.S. and more than 90,000 registered pilots, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation—all of this for an industry that didn’t exist a decade ago. Arizona’s ambition: lead the aerospace revolution and serve as the model state for integration of UAS into the airspace. With our wide-open skies, and diverse and vast airspaces—as well as one of the most robust aviation, defense and space industries in the world—the Grand Canyon State is expected to rank as a top five state in the nation for job creation, according to a study by the nonprofit Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. UAS technology provides so many practical applications. It can be used to spot wildfires

before they get out of control, cut the time it takes the Department of Public Safety to assess an interstate crash, or quickly deliver blood or medications to remote locations. Arizona is the ideal place to play a leading role in advancing this life-changing technology. Some of our statewide partners in this program are indeed already using the technology to improve the lives of Arizonans. The Arizona Department of Transportation already has a small UAS fleet that has helped in specific situations to improve traffic flow, such as at a large festival off the highway. Others will soon help its engineering staff safely and efficiently inspect hard-to-reach areas on bridges or do survey work along state highways. In other applications, they have been used to help control wildfires in Arizona. Matt Mintzmyer, Yavapai College’s associate professor of aviation, and his students helped a firefighting crew last October fight a 40-acre sawmill fire. The wind was 40 mph and the smoke was blowing sideways, Mintzmyer said. The sawmill had 4 to 6 feet of sawdust in it and was too dangerous for crews to access. So, the students launched a drone into the smoke and turned on its thermal camera to identify hotspots, some of which had jumped a nearby highway. They immediately dispatched that information to firefighters and guided them to the flames. “Basically, the drone had prevented what could have been a huge wildland fire,” Mintzmyer said. His students also have assisted in the more efficient production of agricultural sites. From street level, some sites can look verdant, green and level. However, a drone has the ability to not only get above the agricultural site but actually in it. In fact, the college was able to spot drainage, soil and irrigation inefficiencies almost immediately and found one site was only producing about 60 percent of its capability. The college worked with the farmer to improve his production.


Arizona Commerce Authority

The crucial part of AZSkyTech will be its focus on the future. The program will help create a responsible framework for helping to inform a UAS policy that respects safety and privacy ahead of all other things but encourages the state’s strong culture of innovation that has allowed it to thrive as one of the fastest-growing tech hubs in the country. For this and other reasons, Arizona has already caught the eye of a global commercial drone company, Airobotics, whose drone platform is fully automated from end to end and is the first commercial drone in the world to be certified to fly without a human operator. In early 2018, several teams at the Arizona Commerce Authority assisted the company in expanding to Arizona from Israel. Airobotics has developed this unique, proven technology that has been successfully deployed in five countries with Tier 1 customers and has been certified to operate in five countries by aviation authorities. The company is expanding its customer base and is starting to work in the U.S. with autonomous drones. Airobotics CEO and co-founder Ran Krauss said, “Arizona has a strong mining industry and potential partners that we’re excited to work with. Mining companies can benefit greatly from various applications, data collection and analysis tools our drone systems provide.” Krauss also said he likes Arizona for other factors. “The state has a business-friendly regulatory environment that makes it easier to work on unmanned systems. The weather, when not in monsoon season, is good weather to fly drones in as well,” he said. So, with our AZSkyTech program, Arizona is ready to play a prominent role in the safe integration of these aircraft into the airspace. Just as Arizona has done with the development of self-driving cars or the creation of the nation’s first “Fintech sandbox,” AZSkyTech is also poised to lead—but this time from the skies above. SUMMER 2018 AZTECHCONNECT.COM


Q+A editor’s note:

Arizona is poised to be at the forefront of the surging unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry. TechConnect asked two UAS experts—one from industry, the other from academia—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.


[Airobotics CEO]

Can you explain what your company is currently doing in Arizona? Airobotics is expanding its customer base and is starting to work in the United States with autonomous drones. Arizona has a strong mining industry and potential partners who we are excited to work with. Mining companies can benefit greatly from various applications, data collection and analysis tools our drone systems provide. What makes your system unique? Airobotics’ strength is built on three key pillars: our inimitable technology, extensive experience in field deployments and regulation rigor. To date, under each of these pillars, Airobotics has forged a significant path forward. We have developed a unique, proven technology that has been successfully deployed in five countries with Tier 1 customers. It also has been certified to operate in five countries by aviation authorities. Our drone platform is fully automated from endto-end, and we are the first commercial drone in the world to be certified to fly without a human operator. Our unique capabilities: • Multiple payloads and battery swapping: Airobotics’ system has the unique capability of swapping its own batteries and payloads, using a robotic arm. This allows for a diversity of payloads and mission types. • Fully automated platform: Airobotics’ platform is able to automatically self-launch, fly, as well as land time after time accurately. By taking the drone pilot and operator out of the equation, Airobotics enables safety assurances for enterprises. • Industrial grade, durable and weather resistant platform: The Airbase is completely sealed, waterproof, durable and corrosion resistant.



More than that, the Airbase is made from a rugged, industrial grade exterior. Our Optimus drone can fly in rain and wind of up to 20 knots with gusts of 30 knots. Coverage and speed: Airobotics drone can cover up to a 5 kilometer radius around the Airbase in a speed of 10 meters per second.

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 this sector? Commercial UAVs have tremendous potential to improve the industrial and commercial sectors with their data collection tactics and software. The drive for digitalization is vital as companies look for ways to improve productivity and business, which can lead to higher profits that flow back to the state, as well as create new type of jobs related to aerial data and remote operations. Commercial UAVs are also laying some of the foundation for the creation of smart cities, so states that are working on the development of relevant technologies are one step closer to building the city of the future. In your opinion, what makes Arizona a great testing ground? Arizona has many companies in the industrial field, such as mining, that can benefit greatly from autonomous drones, so it’s an ideal place to test them on real worksites. The state also has a businessfriendly regulatory environment that makes it easier to work on unmanned systems. The weather, when not in monsoon season, is good weather to fly drones in as well. The temperature varies between 44°F to 106°F with the summer months typically being dry and the winter months

Q+A being cool. It is rare for the temperature to go below 36°F or above 111°F. The average wind speed only ranges from 6 to 8 mph year-round, too. All these conditions make Arizona a great location for drone flying and testing.

to build, program, simulate, fly and perform reallife 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.

How important is it for a company like yours to have governments, in this case Arizona, really embrace the industry and limit overly burdensome regulations that would hinder innovation in this space? It’s great when a state or country embraces UAVs and tries to ease regulation that could allow companies to work at a faster pace and achieve commercial results. Airobotics works hand in hand with regulators in every country we operate in to achieve the right level of certification. Specifically, in the United States, we strive to operate in BLVOS (beyond visual line of sight) mode and work with the regulator to receive that kind of certification.

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.


[Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Assistant Professor]

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 EmbryRiddle, 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. What makes your programs unique? The UAS degree offers our students the ability

In your opinion, what makes Arizona a great testing ground? Arizona has excellent weather, various climates, deserts, mountains, open space and countless other reasons. 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. SUMMER 2018 AZTECHCONNECT.COM


Governor's Letter

New Era of Innovation to Take Flight in Arizona a

rizona prides itself as a state that welcomes and embraces innovation. It’s why The New York Times recognized that Arizona is having a tech boom. It’s why we were the first state to approve legislation that encourages rather than blocks the emerging financial-technology sector. And it’s why the state is taking the lead in promoting an innovative technology: the development and testing of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), otherwise known as commercial drones. The Arizona Commerce Authority created AZSkyTech, a program that will position our state as the premier place to responsibly test, deploy and advance commercial UAS technology in controlled airspace. It’s a collaborative effort among state, national and private industry partners, with 60 team members and airspaces covering more than 40 percent of the state. AZSkyTech has the resources and expertise to lead the national conversation on how to promote this growing technology that promises to improve the quality of life for all Arizonans by advancing new applications that increase public safety and improve access in remote areas. For example: • Today, a crash on Interstate17 can back up traffic in both directions for hours as troopers take photos and investigate. A UAS can collect the same information in a quarter of the time.




• UAS can track a wildfire’s direction and intensity, informing community evacuations and avoiding tragedies. • UAS can cover more ground quicker than humans can in a search and rescue operation high on a mountain or deep in the Grand Canyon. • UAS can help improve remote Arizona communities’ access to medicine, mail and other vital supplies by shortening the delivery time. UAS also will have an economic benefit for Arizonans. The increased production of UAS will create 100,000 jobs nationally and a cumulative economic impact of $82 billion by 2025. Arizona is estimated to be one of the top five states in the nation to benefit from this increase in terms of job creation and additional revenue, according to a study by the nonprofit Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. With our wide-open spaces, year-round blue skies, thriving aerospace sector and passion for innovation, Arizona is a natural location for the development of this technology. To maximize the potential effectiveness of AZSkyTech, we will continue to innovate and implement the right policies while promoting safety and protect privacy. That’s why this program is so important.


STAYING ON TRACK New technology deploys unmanned aerial systems to track wildlife


Michael Shafer (left) and Paul Flikkema

onitoring wildlife is an essential part of understanding how animals disperse, move and evolve. Wildlife ecologists use data gathered through tracking devices to address environmental challenges such as climate and land use change, biodiversity loss, and the spread of infectious diseases. Despite significant advances in technology as a whole, the electronic tags used to track small animals such as birds, bats and reptiles haven’t changed much over the last 50 years. Very high frequency (VHF) radio tags developed in the 1960s are still the only viable tagging technology for these animals. Although technologically archaic, VHF tags are relatively lightweight and are inexpensive to deploy. Scientists typically track the signals emitted by these tiny tags in the field by using a handheld receiver and directional antenna. But it can be very time- and labor-intensive to follow animals this way—and sample sizes can be low, limiting research findings. Funded through a National Science Foundation grant, a team of researchers at Northern Arizona University is developing an innovative new unmanned aerial system (UAS) with the potential to vastly improve the tracking of animals in the wild carrying VHF tags. Paul Flikkema, professor of electrical engineering; Carol Chambers, professor of wildlife ecology; and Michael Shafer, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, are working together to develop this first-generation system that will be shared with scientists around the world.


“We are developing a new UAV that is not available anywhere commercially,” says Flikkema. “We think the technology is a great synthesis of a mobile platform with sophisticated electronics and software that together can help find and track small animals.” Explains Shafer, “We are developing an open-source UAS with an integrated radio telemetry module that will allow for improved wildlife telemetry tag localization. The current version uses a software-defined radio system attached to a UAV and an on-board companion computer to transmit the receiver audio to the user on the ground. The improved vantage and mobility of the UAV allows for previously infeasible localization techniques and data collection. “These systems promise to revolutionize ecological research with their ability to sample at previously inaccessible locations and spatiotemporal resolutions,” he adds. “It will make our work more efficient because we won’t have to drive around for days searching for transmitters, often hiking long distances and up to the tops of hills and mountains to find bat roosts,” says Chambers, who has spent years tracking bats through rugged terrain. The researchers are currently testing prototypes and developing documentation. Once the project is complete, users will be able to download instructions to build their own systems. KERRY BENNETT is Northern Arizona University’s Research

Communications Officer. Connect at




‘SMARTER, FASTER’ Engineers part of effort to advance artificial intelligence WRITING BY >< ELIZABETH FARQUHAR


rom smart cars that warn you against unsafe lane changes to robots that make your job easier, artificial intelligence is proliferating all around us. We are still years away from realizing the full potential of AI technology but researchers are hard at work to make it happen. Three electrical engineering professors in Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering are among them. They are collaborating with faculty at other leading research universities to lay the foundation for AI advances expected to come to fruition in the next decade. Professor Yu (Kevin) Cao and Assistant Professors Shimeng Yu and Jae-sun Seo are co-principal investigators in two Joint University Microelectronics Program (JUMP) research centers. A project of the Semiconductor Research Corporation, JUMP is a consortium of technology corporations and the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The centers’ endeavors are expected to fuel myriad commercial and defense opportunities. Yu works within the Applications and SystemsDriven Center for Energy-Efficient Integrated NanoTechnologies, known as ASCENT, based at the University of Notre Dame. Cao and Seo are

researchers in the new Center for Brain-Inspired Computing Enabling Autonomous Intelligence, known as C-BRIC, led by Purdue University. Their research “will help the largest semiconductor industries plot paths forward to enable new hardware for advanced computing,” says Professor Paul Westerhoff, the Fulton Schools vice dean for research and innovation. Cao will help to build a bridge between biology and electrical engineering. Today’s artificial intelligence is made possible by powerful computing capability, he says, but they are “energy hungry” and relatively slow. He will work with neuroscientists to learn from nature how to make machines smarter, faster and more energy efficient. “AI will make a dramatic change to our society and C-BRIC will do some of the fundamental work to enable it,” Cao says. Seo is among the C-BRIC researchers who work on intelligent hardware design. He collaborates with neuroscientists and algorithm researchers to come up with ideas inspired by the way the human brain works. Seo studies how to integrate new computing methods within the memory to make hardware devices such as unmanned aerial vehicles and wearable technologies operate faster and be more energy efficient. Yu is a co-investigator in ASCENT, one of the two centers that build the technological foundations for the advanced applications developed in the other JUMP centers. ASCENT researchers are developing the materials and devices necessary to run those applications. “We want to physically revolutionize the system from processor-centric to memory-centric,” Yu explains. Specifically, he is working on modeling frameworks that will help engineers evaluate the benefits of a new 3D computing paradigm over the old one. ELIZABETH FARQUHAR is a freelance writer.




Dr. Muhammed Murtaza

BLOOD TIES New test could help detect many types of cancer WRITING BY >< STEVE YOZWIAK


magine how much patients could benefit if the presence of cancer and even how it develops over time could be discovered with a simple blood test. There is vast potential in precision medicine methods of both detecting and monitoring disease by looking for indications of cancer mutations in cell-free DNA (cfDNA) found floating in the blood. However, there are many factors that can significantly alter these samples as they are collected and analyzed. To help evaluate and ensure the quality of these molecular biomarkers, a scientific team led by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) has devised a rapid test—a droplet digital polymerase chain reaction (ddPCR) assay—so these samples can be used

to help determine the presence and progression of disease. This new test has shown promising results in helping evaluate cfDNA biomarkers in several cancer types, including melanoma, cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer), rectal cancer and breast cancer, according to the study “Evaluation of pre-analytical factors affecting plasma DNA analysis” published recently in the journal Scientific Reports. “In order for us to rely on sequencing results and evidence of cancer mutations from these samples and to make valid recommendations for treating physicians, we must ensure they have been collected and processed appropriately,” says Dr. Muhammed Murtaza, senior author of the study who serves as co-director of TGen’s Center for Noninvasive Diagnostics and a researcher at Mayo Clinic’s Arizona campus. “We developed this new quality-control assay to ensure we can confirm reliability using a very small volume of a patient’s blood sample.” For example, the cfDNA in blood can be contaminated if peripheral blood cells are ruptured, releasing longer DNA fragments not intended as part of the readout. This can bias the results. The new TGen test can filter out such variables, and evaluate the quantity and quality of blood cfDNA samples to improve the performance of subsequent sequencing tests in which the billions of data points in DNA can be spelled out and analyzed. The consensus of professional medical experts has been that these types of circulating SUMMER 2018 AZTECHCONNECT.COM



PARTNERSHIPS FOR PIPELINE tumor DNA (ctDNA) tests have not been perfected enough for use outside clinical trials. The new ddPCR assay from TGen is a significant step towards making these so-called liquid biopsies routine, non-invasive and accurate methods of screening for cancer, detecting early-stage cancer, making treatment decisions, and monitoring how well a treatment is working. “We now routinely use this assay for quality assessment of all plasma samples processed and analyzed for ctDNA studies in our lab,” says Havell Markus, the study’s lead author and a member of Murtaza’s lab.

“We developed this new quality-control assay to ensure we can confirm reliability using a very small volume of a patient’s blood sample.” - DR. MUHAMMED MURTAZA

Murtaza and Tania Contente-Cuomo, also a member of his lab and an author of the study, have applied for a patent for the ddPCR assay. Also contributing to the study were Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine; Oxford University; North Wales Cancer Treatment Centre; University of California, Los Angeles; and Yale University. Grant support came from a Bisgrove Scholars Award from Science Foundation Arizona, The V Foundation for Cancer Research, Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), The Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation, and Desert Mountain CARE. STEVE YOZWIAK is the senior science writer for the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen). Connect at



Engineering Design Program connects academia with industry WRITING BY >< EMILY DIECKMAN


he model is simple: Industry partners propose projects that are assigned to interdisciplinary teams of students. The seniors have a year to deliver. While students gain hands-on engineering experience, companies challenge teams of motivated young engineers to complete pressing projects and out-of-thebox creations—many of which go on to be patented and commercialized—at a low cost. The Engineering Design Program at The University of Arizona is one of the largest capstone design programs in the nation, with about 600 students producing 115 projects in the 2017-2018 academic year. Since 2010, the program has partnered with more than 100 corporate sponsors, and the number of students enrolled in the interdisciplinary design course has nearly doubled. Associated professional development opportunities, recruitment events, internships, co-ops and other activities also make the design program a major conduit between the College of Engineering and corporate partners. Companies involved with the program have the unique opportunity to see potential future employees work on real-world projects. Though industry partners are from all over the United States, as well as Canada and Mexico, the vast majority—such as Raytheon Missile Systems, Roche Ventana Medical Systems, Caterpillar and Honeywell Aerospace—are in Arizona and range from homegrown startups to established companies. “We’re always looking for new partnerships,” said Ara Arabyan, director of the Engineering Design Program. “As our partnerships grow and deepen, we find more


Two members of the LiDAR Group from the UA Department of Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering show their project during the recent Engineering Design Day. The team’s Low-Cost Unmanned Aircraft-Based LiDAR Scanning System was winner of the Prototron Circuits Award for Best Printed Circuit Design. KRIS HANNING, UA BIOCOMM

opportunities to engage students with industry and vice versa.” In the 2017-2018 academic year, Raytheon Missile Systems sponsored five projects, including a system to optimize the efficiency of solar panels and another to nonintrusively detect the presence of stowed human cargo in vehicles. UA alumna Cindy Klingberg, program operations manager at Raytheon, said the program offers an important opportunity for the company to be involved in shaping the next generation of engineers. “We invest because we recognize that there’s certain talent, certain skill sets that we need to fill in our future workforce,” she said. Aimee Dolmseth is general manager of Control Vision Inc., a Green Valley company that manufactures optical instruments and control systems for industrial, scientific and military applications. In 2016, the company’s program team produced a mini-infrared camera with potential applications in night vision for cyclists and search-and-rescue missions. Not only did Control Vision hire one of the students from the team after his graduation but it partnered with the program again to sponsor an imaging pyrometer project allowing real-time monitoring

in the furnaces the company uses for smelting and metal-casting. The latest project was on display at April’s 2018 Design Day, where students presented their projects to a panel of industry judges and competed for thousands of dollars in awards. “We have multiple Wildcat students and alumni in our company, so we know firsthand the talented graduates UA programs produce,” Dolmseth said. “Control Vision is eager to work with these accomplished students whenever we are able.” The Engineering Design Program continues to grow, with a budget increase of nearly $150,000 between the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 academic years that allowed students to tackle increasingly complex projects. “Being able to work with a $4,000 budget is really cool, and I don’t think a lot of other schools get to work with that,” said Nic Balda, a mechanical engineering student who worked on one of the latest design projects. “I can definitely see why it’s one of the top-rated design programs in the nation.” EMILY DIECKMAN is associate editor of the UA College of




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Thursday, September 6, 2018 | 12:30-6:00pm at ASU SKYSONG This event is an opportunity for sharing current advances and implementation trends of communication technology related to the development of smart cities and IoT infrastructure.

AZTC Members: $40 | Non-Members: $60

Learn more and register at