Drones in Hampton Roads? Virginia fights to be one of six FAA test sites

Posted at 5:31 PM, Apr 01, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-02 07:24:09-04

Soon, an even bigger influx of eyes in the sky could be coming to Hampton roads, as state leaders fight to become one of the FAA’s new drone testing sites.

“It will provide Americans a safe process by which these systems can be used in our skies,” said Craig Quigley, the director of the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance.

Quigley says with the popularity of drones in the private sector, Congress wants to regulate them like commercial airliners or private planes.

“All will be considered equal players, controlled by air traffic controllers,” said Quigley.

Before drones are allowed everywhere, though, the FAA will be setting up six test sites around the country.

Virginia is teaming up with New Jersey to become one of those test sites, officially turning in their bid last week.

Researchers at Virginia Tech will be running the project, but the main testing sites would be here in Hampton Roads, at facilities like NASA Langley and Wallops Island, potentially bringing billions into the local economy.

“We believe the six sites chosen by the FAA will become centers of gravity for economic development, and we want to be one of them,” said Quigley.

What about the new drone laws passed by the Virginia legislature, trying to limit their use?

NewsChannel 3 found out this project will not be affected, after the governor amended the bill last week.

“Research use by academic facilities for testing purposes was specifically exempt from the restrictions put in place, so that helped a lot,” said Quigley. “Thank you Governor McDonnell!”

The FAA is expected to pick the six winners by the end of this year. Virginia and New Jersey make up one of 50 teams from 37 states in the running.