Virginia recently put forth a proposal to take part in a federal drone program and was one of 10 states chosen to participate!

Virginia has been selected to participate in a federal drone program — the Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Program. For the next three years, a team from Virginia will explore drone technology that could benefit the Commonwealth in a variety of ways, including package delivery, emergency management, and infrastructure inspection.

This program will also allow the Commonwealth to seek expedited flight permissions from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to perform some of the most complex flight testing ever attempted in the U.S., according to officials with the program.

U.S. Senator Mark Warner, who supported the state’s application for the federal drone program, said in a statement that Virginia’s selection means the state “will be at the forefront of this revolution.”

Day-to-day program management will be done by Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP), which runs one of the seven federal testing sites for UAS. The organization has accumulated significant expertise and has built a reputation for conducting groundbreaking testing while upholding rigorous standards of safety.

“The days aren’t far off when millions of drones will be flying in the airspace,” said Mark Blanks, MAAP’s director. “When you’re looking at an expansion of that scale, it’s critical to make sure it’s being handled carefully and safely. We’re grateful to the DOT and the FAA for creating this program, which recognizes the benefits drones have to offer and seeks to identify ways to balance the needs of operators and the public. It’s a perfect fit with the safety-case work we’re known for, and Virginia’s team is a great one to take it on.”

Warner had this to say:

“Today’s award is recognition that this team has assembled some of the strongest expertise in the nation and has put forward a proposal that will prove critical to shared efforts to safely integrate drones into our communities and airspace. I congratulate the team for winning this slot, and thank U.S. Secretary of Transportation Chao and the FAA for giving us the opportunity to continue Virginia’s leadership in this field.”

Part of the reason for the continued growth of drone assistance and funding to Virginia is due to the interest the federal drone program has gained from our citizens. Six counties in the state – Buckingham, Cumberland, Loudoun, Montgomery, Prince Edward, and Wise – were a part of the proposal and hope to be hubs for drone innovation. The program will also look to gain feedback from the community on how certain endeavors by the program’s team are working in trials done over the three-year period.

“This is an important day for all of Virginia,” said Ed Albrigo, the chief executive officer of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority and the Center for Innovative Technology. “This work will be foundational to a rapidly growing innovation ecosystem in unmanned systems throughout Virginia, benefiting communities across the Commonwealth and the nation overall.”

Corporate partners joining Virginia include Project Wing, Intel, AT&T, Airbus Aerial, State Farm, Dominion Energy, Sinclair Broadcast Group, and HAZON Solutions.

Are you excited to see more drones flying overhead due to this federal drone program? Or will you be ducking and running for cover? Tell us all about it in the comments!

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