Hawk Tank Champions Fly Off with Top Prize


Business plans battled for supremacy in the 2021 Hawk Tank competition, sponsored by Fort Lewis College, and now San Juan College in Farmington. By Donna K. Hewett. Sponsored by Distill Beer, Wine, Spirits and Three Rivers Brewery

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Zia Drone Operations in Farmington, came out the grand champions of the fifth annual Hawk Tank Business Plan Competition this spring. It's the first year Fort Lewis and San Juan Colleges partnered for the event to expand the competition and to offer a larger $10,000 cash prize. You're watching the Local News Network brought to you by Distil Beer Wine Spirits and Three Rivers Brewery, I'm Wendy Graham Settle. Based on the television show Shark Tank, the Hawk Tank Competition winners were announced virtually in April.

Yeah. It was pretty exciting. I mean, it was nerve wracking the whole day, and then, you know, we're kind of all huddled around the monitors just to kind of see if when they are announcing the winners and, you know, I can feel my heart beating in my shoes and it was the loudest thing ever. But yeah, once they announced our name, we were so thrilled, we jumped up, and we were shouting, and I think, yeah, we just we're having a good time.

I'm pretty sure I hugged Josh.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure there were some hugs.

Oh, that was going to be all the way where I am.

Classmates and now business partners, the team impress the judges in Farmington and at the finals in Durango with their many drone applications.

Yeah. We wanted to take the functions and capabilities of drones, and they're kind of scattered. So, you have people that might do some photography or has some media, or we'll do some advertising, or maybe they work in the industry of construction and inspection or agriculture. But they're kind of broken up, with like this guy might do that, and this guy might do this. So, what we thought Zia drones could be is like a one-stop shop. So, where we do everything, we specialize in everything. We have the certificates and degrees from the college, we partner with the college. We learn, we advance our technologies, and that way we're kind of a one stop, you know, company within our community that can do all various types of drone application.

The three partners were the first students to enter San Juan Colleges Aerial Systems Program when it launched in fall 2020. They're now certified to fly drones for real estate property shots, agricultural mapping, aerial photography, and data collection.

And with the colleges resources, you actually get to learn to be a pilot with the drones.

And it's what a lot of pilots will go through for basic, you know, just understanding the sectional charts of how high you can actually fly, what's an extra surrounding areas, so it's kind of a lot of it is basically becoming a pilot.

They actually captured the Salt Creek fire burning near Shiprock by accident On May 2nd. The Hawk Tank Program was designed to encourage and reward young entrepreneurs through workshops and a mentorship program. Eddy Rawlinson, Dean of Business Information and Technology at San Juan College was instrumental in joining forces with Fort Lewis College to import the program into Farmington.

When the students are able to really begin to really launch their companies and get involved, and what I gave the gentlemen just a minute ago, I'd just come from a meeting with the Chamber of Commerce here in Farmington, and we're encouraging them to go ahead and join the chamber and be part of the real business community here in Farmington, on the four corners area. So we're again, very excited to have taken part in this competition, and for our team to come out on top as the grand prize winners for this year's 2021 Hot Tank Competition.

Their new company boasts a shiny collection of a dozen or so drones, all different sizes each with their own specialty.

This one is kind of a dump truck in the sky. It's a little big, but that one's great for mapping. So, each drone will have a tool that it does better than the other. Then we have little bitty mini's, and those are great for like events and crowds cause we can fly-in real close and get in there.

To participate in the fun of next year's Hawk Tank as a competitor or business mentor, contact Michael Valdez at MEVALDEZ@FORTLEWIS.EDU. Thanks for watching this edition of the Local News Network, I'm Wendy Graham Settle.


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