Jindal Students Help Get Business Ideas Off Ground with Drone Work
Russell Julian (left), founder and CEO of RMS Aerospace, and Dr. Rajiv Shah, professor of organizations, strategy and international management at UT Dallas, are working together to find business applications for drones.
Entrepreneurship students at the Naveen Jindal School of Management are partnering with companies to explore potential business applications for drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), this semester.
With RMS Aerospace, teams of students in one of Dr. Rajiv Shah’s entrepreneurship courses are investigating the viability of six business opportunities involving drones: payload delivery, crop-dusting, high-risk inspections, emergency medical services, photography for sporting events and remote sensing.
“I believe this is huge. There’s no end to the kinds of applications you can have with drones, which is why when RMS approached us, I saw an opportunity for them and for us. It’s a win-win situation for both companies and it’s a win-win for our students, our program, our school and the University,” Shah said.
Students in a second class are working with Texas Instruments to look into business applications involving wireless technology.
Taught by Shah, professor of organizations, strategy and international management, the entrepreneurial experience course includes management and engineering students who work with corporate partners and evaluate new technologies that have big business possibilities. Shah said past students have focused on applications for the energy and defense industries, but this year’s students are the first to concentrate on pilotless aircraft.
“I believe this is huge. There’s no end to the kinds of applications you can have with drones, which is why when RMS approached us, I saw an opportunity for them and for us. It’s a win-win situation for both companies and it’s a win-win for our students, our program, our school and the University.”
“Our class is on the forefront of what will be viewed as the most groundbreaking technological innovation of our generation and many going forward,” MBA student Shawn Stark said. “They are bringing the topic to real life and not just providing a textbook entry that allows for hands-on experience that is invaluable to our class.”
RMS Aerospace, founded by Russell Julian, a retired U.S. Army intelligence officer and aviator, is an Addison-based company that trains pilots globally for the airlines, military and corporations, and UAV operators for the defense sector. Already vital to industries ranging from agriculture to defense, commercial drones have the potential to change the way we work, said Julian, CEO of RMS.
“It is going to fundamentally change the way we live just as GPS and the Internet have. It’s a rare opportunity from an entrepreneur’s perspective to see an industry start up literally from the ground up, and that’s what the commercial drone industry represents.
“Any time you’ve got an industry that’s clamoring for regulation, you know that there’s demand there, and that’s exactly what’s happening,” he said.
Julian’s experience with drones began during his last two years in the Army when he helped set up an unmanned aerial system at Fort Hood.
“I’m like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. I want to fly. Oh, my career’s doomed,’” Julian joked. “But it wound up being one of the best assignments I’ve ever had, and it really gave me a glimpse into the future.”
Soon after retiring from the Army, Julian, a former pilot trainer, launched RMS in 2006. The company had been primarily training pilots until about three years ago when the emerging UAV market piqued Julian’s interest. As the market continues to be poised for huge growth, he reached out to Shah looking for an opportunity to partner with the school.
“Working with Dr. Shah and RMS on how to build a business around the emerging UAV industry has given me a peek into what will become the next big technology market breakthrough," MBA student Collin Zreet said. "Coming from an engineering and business background, I am now able to see what my formal education can be used for in the real world.”
By examining each opportunity, students may gain some key insight that could help them determine which industry might take off earlier than some of the others, Shah said.
“Maybe crop-dusting might be one of the first. I don’t know. Which one of these could be the front wave in this big new thing that’s happening? This helps the students and the company. And certainly if something like this is successful, it’s good for the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Jindal School and UTD,” Shah said.
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