WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe joined NASA officials Thursday at Wallops Island to celebrate Virginia’s newest asset in drone technology research – a runway for unmanned aircraft.
The ceremony launches a new $5.8 million state-funded runway dedicated to drone research and development. It’s officially known as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (MARS UAS) Airfield.
The runway is 3,000 feet long and 75 feet wide. Its concrete pad measures 130 feet by 120 feet. A hangar is being built this summer and will include a rollup door, lab space and communications and broadband connectivity.
“The MARS UAS Airfield presents a significant new capability for Wallops and the Hampton Roads region,” the governor 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.”
According to a study completed by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the UAS industry is predicted to have a total economic impact in Virginia of about $270 million annually by the year 2020.
Following the ribbon cutting, McAuliffe became the first governor to ever ride in a autonomous aerial system and flew over Wallops island.
Drone Runway Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
The Associated Press contributed to this report.