Governor attends ribbon cutting ceremony for drone runway at Wallops Island

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.