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UAF technology will help companies operate unmanned aircraft


Bruce Crevensten pointed to an unmanned aircraft control touchscreen, littered with boxes and buttons, and asked a simple question 

“Where’s the fly button?” Crevensten said during a University of Alaska Fairbanks Inventors' Forum in May that highlighted his new company, ArcticFire Development Corp.

There were at least a half-dozen choices. None said “launch” or “fly.”

“Trust me. If you touch this button, the drone is going to fall out of the sky,” Crevensten said, pointing to a nondescript spot on the screen.

His example illustrated the need for user-friendly controls to help people who want operate unmanned aircraft systems but don’t yet know how to do so. ArcticFire plans to fill that business niche. The company will sell ground-control stations that will work with any web-based device — laptop, cellphone, tablet or desktop computer — to fly unmanned aircraft.

Crevensten, a senior software engineer with UAF’s Scenarios Network for Alaska and Arctic Planning, and partner Rayjan Wilson formed ArcticFire with the help of the UAF’s Office of Intellectual Property and Commercialization. Wilson is the senior systems engineer with UAF’s Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration. The two have more than 800 hours of flight time.

Most unmanned aircraft users fall into two categories: those such as military personnel, who have expensive, cumbersome machine systems, and hobbyists, who fly for fun. Technology companies have yet to build easy-to-use systems for companies that want use unmanned aircraft to inspect such things as infrastructure, agricultural growth or hazardous situations. 

Crevensten and Wilson are looking to fill that gap with user-friendly hardware and software.

“Flying missions can be tough, and these vehicles can be difficult to program,” Crevensten said. “We want to make flying unmanned aircraft as routine as using a mobile phone application.”

OIPC’s goal is to work with UAF inventors, private companies and entrepreneurs to protect university intellectual property. UAF created the Nanook Innovation Corp., a nonprofit, to commercialize intellectual property generated from research conducted at UAF. The nonprofit works with Nanook Tech Ventures, a for-profit entity that helps UAF staff and faculty create entrepreneurial startups.

“Our new structure increases our capacity to get these technologies into companies where they can be used and further developed,” said Adam Krynicki, OIPC business development director. “Based on these technologies, companies can sell new products, creating new opportunities for diversified economic development in Alaska.”

ON THE WEB: http://www.uaf.edu/oipc/, http://www.nanookinnovation.org, http://www.nanooktechventures.com.______________________________________________
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