Virginia governor cuts ribbon on UAS-dedicated runway

By AUVSI News posted 18-05-2017 15:30


Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe cut the ribbon on Virginia's new runway dedicated to unmanned aircraft before taking to the air in an optionally piloted vehicle, making him, as he pronounced, "the first governor to fly in a drone."

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's UAS Airfield is a 3,000-foot runway capable of accommodating larger vehicles.

It's a sign of Virginia's dedication to unmanned systems, McAuliffe said.

"My dream is a drone in every home ... and when you flip it over, I want it to say, manufactured in the commonwealth of Virginia," he said.

McAuliffe joined a variety of other state and local dignitaries at the event. After the ribbon cutting, which took place on the runway behind two NASA UAS, a Centaur optionally piloted vehicle passed by overhead.

That vehicle is built by Manassas-based Aurora Flight Sciences, which recently inked a deal to build flying cars for Uber's planned flight-on-demand service. McAuliffe went along as a passenger in the vehicle after the event, along with a safety pilot. That trip took place from a separate Wallops runway, not the new UAS-specific one.

McAuliffe told the crowd that he had spoken at AUVSI's Xponential show in Dallas last week, and the plan to take him up in the Centaur was hatched in a meeting with Aurora President and COO Mark Cherry.

Cherry said Aurora has to go out of state to do much of its flight testing, but can now bring some of that to Wallops.

Dale Nash, director of the Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority, said the runway is open for business and has signed up its first customer, the U.S. Navy, which will fly some Northrop Grumman vehicles in July.

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