Sens. Warner, Kaine Announce Nearly $1 Million to Advance Drone Technology Training in Virginia Colleges
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced today that the Old Dominion University Research Foundation has been awarded nearly $1 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop and implement courses in Virginia colleges that research and explore the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). The $899,477 NSF award will help Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations Technicians (UASOT) succeed in the emerging fields of geospatial data acquisition, analysis, and exploration.
“Unmanned aircraft systems are becoming increasingly important in many industries, and have the potential to impact all sectors of the U.S. economy,” said Sen. Warner. “In my work on the Governor's Unmanned Systems Commission, a key point of discussion has been that Virginia can set itself apart from its competition by creating a workforce pipeline of well-trained operators and researchers. This funding will make it easier for Virginia students to gain the skills necessary to fill that need.”
“Virginia has already seen the remarkable impacts of UAS technology, such as delivering critical medical supplies to communities in remote areas of the Commonwealth,” said Sen. Kaine. “Today’s funding will fuel breakthrough research and innovation that will position Virginia as a leader and innovator in UAS technology for the future.”
The award will also provide faculty professional development and mentoring, curriculum development, and precollege activities to increase the drone-workforce pipeline. To take advantage of the opportunities provided by this emerging sector, the Geospatial Technician Education-Unmanned Aircraft Systems (GeoTEd-UAS) project, a three-year effort that focuses on geospatial technologies, will develop and implement academic courses and pathways to prepare drone technicians. GeoTEd-UAS will build college and faculty capacity at two partnering community colleges and support these faculty to develop pathways for technician training. Activities include workforce needs and skills analysis, compilation of the duties and responsibilities of a UASOT, convening of leadership and faculty development workshops, faculty mentoring, curriculum development and student recruitment.
GeoTEd-UAS project partners include Thomas Nelson Community College, Mountain Empire Community College, the Virginia Community College System, Virginia Tech, and the Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC).
This month, Senator Warner visited the UAS program at Germanna Community College, which has partnered with a quarry in Culpeper to train students in commercial drone use, and test-drove one of the drones that students are using to help commercialize this technology in Virginia and the rest of the world.