BIG STONE GAP, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today, Drone Airspace Management (DAM) and Aurora Flight Sciences joined the office of Sen. Warner in announcing the launch of the Virginia Emerging Drone Industry Cluster program that will focus on next-generation workforce training in drone technology. The purpose of this program is to provide workforce development for an emerging drone industry cluster based in Virginia, particularly the counties served by Mountain Empire Community College (MECC). The program will also result in MECC generating a sustainable revenue stream from delivery of drone and sensor operations training to visiting corporate workers and to the schools’ respective local student populations. Drone technology and course curricula will be administered by DAM and Aurora Flight Sciences.
The program will span three years and be self-sustaining, benefiting Wise County greatly. Wise IDA, in partnership with DAM and MECC, introduces a workforce training program to transition Wise County residents, previously dependent on mining jobs, which have declined significantly in the last 10 years. This project will also support economic expansion and development throughout the region, not only in services directly connected to the delivery of drone and sensor operations and training, but also advancing the innovative capabilities of local school programs while also offering greater educational and career opportunities for local students and adults interested in career retraining opportunities.
“Wise County put itself on the map in the drone world over a year ago by successfully making the first medical package delivery by drone anywhere in the United States. Today’s grant, which I was proud to strongly support, further bolsters the region as a key hub for unmanned aerial systems,” said Sen. Warner, co-founder of the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus. “We need to continue working together at the federal, state, regional and local levels to build a stronger and more diverse economy, and getting southwest Virginia into the game early on with growing industries like unmanned systems and cyber will position it to compete in the 21st century economy.”
Projected outputs of this project include 64 corporate workers and 80 college students enrolled in drone courses over three years. Projected outcomes include 64 workers and 60 students graduating from drone courses, 35 direct jobs created, 175 indirect jobs created, $15 million in leveraged private investment (LPI), $37.5 million in annual supply chain procurement and nearly $1.2 million in annual workforce training revenues.
"We're proud to partner with Aurora Flight Sciences and our other strong technology partners on our platform to advance drone technology and workforce education for next-generation growth in rural communities," said Avery L. Brown, Principle at DAM.
In addition to the Appalachian Regional Commission’s (ARC) $2.2 million contribution, Aurora Flight Sciences will provide $880,000 of in-kind matching support, bringing the total project funding to $3,100,000. This ARC support is part of the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative to diversify economies in coal-impacted communities.