A University of Arkansas entrepreneurship and innovation program is partnering with DroneUp of Virginia Beach, Virginia, to explore new business solutions, including how drone technology could be used to improve campus safety and security.
DroneUp announced its collaboration with the McMillon Innovation Studio, part of the UA’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Thursday. The partnership is not DroneUp’s first foray into northwest Arkansas. Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) partnered with the company in 2020 as part of the retailer’s drone delivery initiative and announced an investment in DroneUp in 2021. The two companies did not disclose the investment amount.
Last May, Walmart announced it was expanding DroneUp’s delivery network to 34 sites across six states by the end of 2022, enabling Walmart to deliver over 1 million packages by drone annually, the retailer said in a news release.
Students with the UA McMillon Innovation Studio will work on a team project “focused on campus safety and security,” a news release from the drone solutions firm said.
“The design team will coordinate with key stakeholders on campus to discuss possibilities that could become innovative solutions to real-world problems,” it said. “They will also evaluate legal and policy aspects around privacy and safety.”
The collaboration is "unique, given the McMillon Innovation Studio's focus on design and our presence in northwest Arkansas," Ilya Tlumach, DroneUp's vice president of learning and development, said, adding the partnership is also part of the company's workforce development strategy, possibly becoming a pipeline for new talent from UA graduates.
"Part of our strategy in workforce development is to partner with institutions," Tlumach said. "That is part of our strategy [in Arkansas] to focus on the future of workforce as well as partnering with the community to address issues for the common good."
Participants are encouraged to think "outside the box" when it comes to using drone technology for campus security, Tlumach said. The students are working on ways the technology could be used that does not come across as a means to spy on people on campuses, he said.
"That is what we are trying to figure out," Tlumach said. "Those constraints keep coming up. They need to think about it differently. What other ways can drone technology be used? Wrestling with some of the concerns and hesitation is all part of the process."
Results from the partnership will be unveiled at a McMillion Innovation Studio Demo Day event May 3.