Ready for liftoff.
During next week's meeting of the board of Triumph Gulf Coast, the board will consider final approval for a grant to Gulf Coast State College to establish a drone “boot camp” for exiting military in the region.
The board is also set to review the term sheet negotiations for a grant to help establish a disaster-preparedness and response drone program at GCSC's Gulf/Franklin campus with Skyborne Technology, a wholly owned subsidiary of UAV Corp, (OTC: HTTI), among its partners.
The Triumph board is set to meet by teleconference June 18.
The college announced last week that it was opening registration for the “boot camp”, with the first online cohort beginning next week
Under the proposal, Triumph is providing $2.3 million in grant funds and the college is matching that with $955,937.
Unmanned Safety Institute (USI), with an office at the Gulf/Franklin campus, will also provide matching funds in the amount of $790,000.
The “boot camp” is a hybrid instructional program that will offer the opportunity to earn up to eight industry certifications and college credit in an accelerated format, primarily online.
In 16 weeks, a student could earn all the certifications for “outside of line of sight flying,” said Frank Fuller, Triumph's education consultant during a presentation to the Triumph board.
The program will place a priority on exiting military personnel from an eight-county Northwest Florida region impacted by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The region, Fuller said, could see a 12 percent growth in operations from companies such as FedEx and Amazon due to the demand on unmanned aerial systems.
“They are clamoring for unmanned aerial systems,” Fuller said. “It reduces contact and reduces costs.”
Jim McKnight, executive director of the county Economic Development Coalition, has characterized the boot camp program as a “wrap-around” to high school drone programs.
While the boot camp does prioritize exiting military personnel and their spouses in the eight-county region, there will be opportunities for high school students with the proper certifications to enter the boot camp program.
According to the meeting agenda, the Triumph board is poised to approve the grant award next week.
The agenda indicates the board will also review ongoing term sheet negotiations on a grant request from GCSC to partner with several stakeholders in establishing a center for the use of unmanned aerial systems in disaster response and readiness.
The proposal would combine an educational component with emergency management, according to Susan Skelton from the Triumph staff.
The proposed technology center would develop and deploy drones that would provide cell phone service capabilities as well as thermal or infrared equipment to aid in searches following a disaster.
They would also have the ability to deploy equipment and medical supplies to distressed areas.
Skyborne Technology, with many of the essential tools already in its kit, would be a key partner to the proposal.
“This project, for drone technology and where we are today, could morph into something more,” said Matt Terry, the county's representative on the Triumph board during a prior meeting.
“It sounds like a really good project that will not only help us but also people in other areas.”
Triumph Gulf Coast is legislatively-charged with disbursing some $1.5 billion in fine dollars to the eight counties most-impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
It has already provided grant funding for a drone program at both public high schools, to expand the agricultural curriculum at Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School and stop-gap emergency funding to local governments following Hurricane Michael.