Multidisciplinary drone class leads to aerial data company. JMU’s Virginia Drones Project brought together students from 7 majors, 4 professors and entrepreneurs form Nova Labs to use collaborative learning, design thinking, social entrepreneurial skills, and a variety of technologies to develop real-world prototype uses for 6 UASs that are custom-built by JMU students. 4-VA sponsors the project in the JMU X-Labs. In the January 2017, 4-VA at JMU sent a group of students to Cartagena, Colombia to generate a 3D model of an eroding historic wall using their custom-built drone. Since graduating, three of these students have created a business called Canvex. Canvex uses drones to create 3D models, aerial pictures, and large-scale agricultural analysis. The new company aims to bring a competitive advantage to businesses in the Shenandoah Valley and beyond through the positive application of drones and by providing access to faster, more accurate, and less expensive data. With support from JMU’s Venture Creation Accelerator, Canvex is working with farmers in the area to develop an agricultural analysis process. They have also been commissioned to create a 3D model of a historic building in downtown Harrisonburg. The model will be available for viewing at JMU’s Duke Hall exhibition starting August 27.

First undergraduate H4D program in the nation produces drone technology company. Hacking 4 Defense is a program developed at Stanford University where graduate students solve complex U.S. Department of Defense problems. In 2017 JMU offered the first undergraduate H4D class in the country. Each week, students had to interview at least 10 experts in order to understand and solve their assigned problem for the Department of Defense. Many of the solutions incorporated drones and it proved to be a powerful and life-changing course for both students and faculty. In 2017, one H4D student team launched Sentinel Defense Systems, a new drone technology company that provides situational awareness in areas without GPS access for the military and local public safety teams. Using a unique proprietary drone technology system, their mission is to save lives, both on and off the battlefield.

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