May 20, 2024
ATS NW Feb 2023
Hakki Erhan Sevil, right, and Ph.D. student Shane Smith are engineering cutting-edge drone systems.

Photo: UWF

ATS NW Feb 2023
Jennifer Ohlsen is the new president and CEO of the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida. The Tallahassee-based non-profit identifies, funds, supports and tests innovative programs to improve the lives of children and families.

Photo: Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida

ATS NW Feb 2023
Construction is underway on FSU College of Business' Legacy Hall, scheduled for completion in the summer of 2025. The five-story building will replace the Rovetta Business Building and accommodate more than 8,000 students.

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Northwest Florida Roundup

Drones to the Rescue

Carlton Proctor | 2/28/2023


Drones to the Rescue

University of West Florida professor Hakki Erhan Sevil has developed a novel “swarm navigation” model for small drones to assist response teams in emergency situations.

Sevil, assisted by Ph.D. student Shane Smith, is using a research grant from the Air Force to develop a 3-D model to guide a swarm of drones that can collect and relay critical data to help emergency response teams plan and execute rescue operations.

“In an emergency situation, such as wildfire, disaster relief effort or search-and-rescue mission, rapid identification of details of the environment or potential dangers is paramount,” Sevil says. “Our framework can not only save crucial time in building situational awareness, but also deliver this awareness to first responders without burdening their cognitive load.”

Sevil and his team have been working on the 3-D model prototype for more than two years. The team’s research was recently published in the Journal of Robotics.

Sevil says the team’s next goal is to conduct a real-world test of their model in a controlled environment using small swarms of drones.


  • Walt Disney donated $1 million to Florida A&M University for the university’s School of Journalism & Graphic Communication. The grant will be used to create the Disney Storytellers Fund, with a goal of giving students more access to storytelling careers.
  • Amazon has selected Tallahassee Community College as an education partner for its career choice program, ahead of the company’s anticipated plans to launch its $200-million, 635,000-sq.-ft. robotics fulfillment center in Tallahassee early this year. The college will provide Amazon’s hourly employees with training programs that include HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), machining and welding.
  • Construction is underway for Gulf Coast State College’s new $25-million STEM building. The three-story building is expected to be completed in late 2024.
  • Retired professor Muhammad Rashid and his wife, Fatema Rashid, have donated $1 million to the University of West Florida.


  • Baptist Health Care has begun plans to build 214 affordable housing units on 10 acres of its current 51-acre campus. Baptist executives chose the non-profit Paces Foundation as lead developers of the project. The City of Pensacola has earmarked $460,000 for the project. Baptist Health Care will vacate the campus in September when it moves into its new $650-million hospital about five miles north of downtown Pensacola.


  • Bay Economic Development Alliance President Becca Hardin says Mexico-based Air Temp of America — a supplier of parts to Volkswagen, Volvo and General Motors — canceled plans to build a plant in Panama City, citing the negative impact of the pandemic on the auto industry.


  • U.S. News & World Report named Pensacola the third best place in the nation to retire. The ranking looked at 150 metro areas in the U.S. to identify the best places to live based on quality of life, the job market and the residents’ overall satisfaction.


  • Tallahassee-based Inspired Communities of Florida recently notified the City of Pensacola plans for a project at Community Maritime Park were “financially infeasible” and asked the city to consider extending its lease option until market conditions improve. The project’s plans call for up to 600 apartments and 50,000 square feet of retail space.


  • Pensacola International Airport set a record in 2022 for passenger growth with 2.42 million, 16.7% over 2021. Tallahassee International Airport’s 607,544 passenger count for 2022 was 38% over 2021 figures. Panama City’s Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport saw a 4.6% decrease in 2022.
  • Pensacola is seeking $53 million from Triumph Gulf Coast to upgrade its Port of Pensacola. Triumph Gulf Coast is the non-profit group that awards BP oil spill settlement funds to economic development projects in the eight Northwest Florida counties impacted by the 2010 spill. The application calls for upgrading and improving the port's infrastructure in the northern section of the 55-acre port, whose origins date to the 1740s.
  • Port Panama City broke annual cargo and revenue records during its 2022 fiscal year. The port handled more than 2 million tons of cargo and earned $19 million, some $1.6 million more than its 2021 revenue.

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