A pivotal role to play

Published 12:56 pm Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, also known as drones, have opened up a world of opportunity in a variety of ways, and it is both interesting and exciting that the Heart of Virginia is set to play an important role in the development of both them and the policy that governs their operation.

As recently reported by Herald Staff Writer Morgan White, the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement with the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority that will see the county participate in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program.

County Administrator Wade Bartlett said, “The commonwealth views the participation in the program as a means to cement Virginia’s leading role in UAS and to attract this industry to the commonwealth.”

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He noted that in May 2016, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership had received a Certificate of Authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration for research flights in an area of nearly 5,000 square miles in Central Virginia and budgeted almost $1 million for equipment for the new test range. Prince Edward is located in the heart of this range.

Drones have been in the news a lot recently. Weaponized versions of them are a powerful tool used by the U.S. military and have prompted important debates on Capitol Hill.

Non-weaponized drones have emerged as a key business tool. Amazon.com has announced Prime Air, which it describes as a delivery system it provides that is “designed to safely get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less.”

Drones can also add vital dimension to disaster, weather, sports, environmental or investigative journalism, and they can do so in a cost-effective way.

However, I am definitely wary of the possible abuses that can come from military, business, journalistic or recreational uses of drones. I think the regulations that will be developed in part through work done in the Heart of Virginia will be nothing short of crucial.

TITUS MOHLER is the sports editor for The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. His email address is Titus.Mohler@FarmvilleHerald.com.