Virginia Opens Unmanned Aircraft Runway on Wallops Island
~After cutting ribbon, Governor McAuliffe becomes first governor to fly in autonomous aircraft~
WALLOPS ISLAND – Governor Terry McAuliffe today celebrated the opening of Virginia's newest asset in drone technology research – a runway for unmanned aircraft – and then experienced the future of aviation firsthand by flying in a plane that can be piloted from the ground.
Governor McAuliffe visited NASA Wallops Flight Facility for a ribbon-cutting on the runway, a $5.8 million state-funded project officially known as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (MARS UAS) Airfield.
“The MARS UAS Airfield presents a significant new capability for Wallops and the Hampton Roads region,” Governor McAuliffe said. “It propels Virginia further on its quest to become a national leader in autonomous technology and industry, which is at the heart of our efforts to build a new Virginia economy.”
Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Governor McAuliffe boarded an Aurora Centaur, an optionally piloted aircraft that can be operated remotely from a ground control station, and flew in the plane over Wallops Island.
“This new facility at Wallops provides government and commercial users with a runway under restricted airspace on a secure federal facility – discreetness that is of high interest for research and development,” Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said.
“The new UAS runway is an outstanding and strategic addition to the vast array of unmanned systems assets in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson. “The addition of these unique capabilities will provide the opportunity for even more companies and organizations to test their systems in Virginia.”