The tour showcased the UAS assets across Virginia’s New River Valley to demonstrate the benefits of locating UAS companies here. The day started with breakfast, a state presentation from VEDP, and a regional presentation from Charlie Jewell, Executive Director of Onward NRV. The tour then moved on to the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) office where Mark Blanks presented on the research and application the department has been doing including operations over people, UAS communication, and UAS Integration Pilot Program.
We then visited Kentland Farm to see the current testing site of Wing before heading to the Drone Park for a presentation by Craig Woosley, a professor in the Virginia Tech Aerospace & Ocean Engineering Department. Two Ph.D students then showed off their drone, highlighting its capabilities including its ability to recognize other flying objects and make decisions based on the type of object. The last stop with Mark as the tour guide was at the new Wing delivery location in Christiansburg. This location is the epitome of what MAAP is all about; supporting research and innovation to allow companies to become a full-scale operating business.
Lunch was hosted by New River Community College (NRCC) at their STEM Campus in the Christiansburg Mall. After lunch, Jeff Levy, Engineering Design Technology Program Head, showed off his lab which included an extensive variety of drones and 3D printers creating parts for the drones his students built. Levy and his students work with local companies to create solutions to existing industry problems. Bob Harrison, an adjunct professor in unmanned systems and retired pilot, shared how he built a course from scratch to prepare students to take the Remote Pilot Certification, that is now part of the curriculum. The day ended at NRCC’s Dublin Campus with a student demonstration of a drone simulation platform and an overview of the Components and Electronics courses taught by J. Lusk. Lusk teaches his students how to build, maintain, and repair drones to assure airworthiness.
A consistent message of the day was how collaborative the business and research community is in the NRV. One example that came up was the creation of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Ridge & Valley chapter. AUVSI is the world’s largest organization devoted exclusively to advancing the unmanned systems and robotics industries, which allows the NRV’s companies and researchers to stay up to date on cutting edge technology and innovative ideas. Many of the UAS innovators in the New River Valley came together to establish the Ridge & Valley chapter, supporting cohesion and collaboration across the industry, colleges, and region.
Virginia’s New River Valley: Virginia’s New River Valley is an eclectic mix of interconnected small towns that each offer their own unique vibe and appeal. The region provides an abundance of cultural and social offerings due to the presence of three world-class universities, while retaining the charm and benefits of small town living. The NRV is home to a diverse and innovative business community with companies that range from high-tech startups to foreign-based corporations to specialty agribusiness. These organizations benefit from the collaborative spirit of our region and a loyal, highly-skilled, and educated workforce. The scenic beauty of the region also fosters a deep connection to nature, which is deepened by access to outdoor recreation and the preservation of our natural environment. It’s clear why Virginia’s New River Valley is “A Natural Fit.”
Onward NRV: Onward NRV is a public/private, regional economic development organization whose mission is to attract and retain world class jobs, investment, and talent in Virginia’s New River Valley. It’s also a movement where leaders from business, government, and higher education work together to promote the economic vitality of the region.