Arland Whitfield delivers his FastForward pitch about the Skyworks Project on Friday.

By: J.D. Ross
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School of Information Studies (iSchool) sophomore Arland Whitfield was one of 13 winners in Chancellor Kent Syverud’s FastForward competition, and delivered his pitch as part of the Chancellor’s inaugural activities on Friday.

The competition, organized at the request of the Chancellor and his inauguration committee as a way to have a strong student voice and engage students on the day of the inauguration, started with a call for video pitches to showcase projects that demonstrate how Syracuse University and its students can have a positive impact on the world.

Students from across campus submitted nearly 70 video entries, and the inauguration committee selected 13 winners, who will receive grants from the University of up to $1500 to carry out their ideas. Each winning team was invited to present their idea to the Chancellor during an hour long public pitch session held as part of the inauguration events.

Whitfield’s pitch presentation centered around the student organization he founded, called the Skyworks Project. It is an initiative to bring students from across campus together to learn more about the uses for aerial drone technology. The organization hopes to use the grant to “enrich the content that it provides for students,” explained Whitfield.

“This ranges from purchasing another trainer drone, to repairing drones that members have crashed while learning how to fly,” said Whitfield.  “It will also go towards some research and development projects that some members are currently working on.”

“We’re doing some interesting things,” Whitfield continued. “For instance, we have one member who is working on facial recognition software for drones, and another who is working on open source drones so he can create his own flight control behaviors.”

“Arland has done a fantastic job organizing and leading a coalition of students from across Syracuse University, as well as many external partners, in an project that is making significant contributions to drone technology and policy,” said iSchool assistant professor of practice Anthony Rotolo. “Some see these smaller, civilian drones as the beginning of a future filled with flying machines performing all sorts of important services in our daily lives, while others express concerns over privacy, regulation and many other unknowns – Arland sees all sides of this issue and navigates Skyworks with informed and optimistic leadership.”

Rotolo hopes that the support Skyworks has received from Chancellor Syverud will lead to experiments in many aspects of drone technology, and ultimately important advancements that will benefit Syracuse University and the greater community.

“With this grant, we hope to put Syracuse University on the map as an authority for drone technology,” said Whitfield.