Mark Blanks brings extensive experience in aviation and unmanned systems to his role as the director of the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, where he leads an FAA-designated test site and manages the operations of Virginia’s team in the UAS Integration Pilot Program. Both programs have consistently broken new ground in the industry and become national models for safe, evidence-based, results-oriented UAS integration into the national airspace.
Blanks has a long history of building successful programs. Before joining Virginia Tech in 2015, he managed the UAS program at the Applied Aviation Research Center at Kansas State University, which under his leadership became fastest growing program on the Salina campus and a top priority at the university. He was also instrumental in launching a similar program, still running today, at Middle Tennessee State University.
An accomplished researcher and manager who has led numerous sponsored research projects at both the federal and commercial levels, Blanks also has a strong background in technical disciplines. He is an FAA-licensed Airframe & Powerplant technician and holds a private pilot’s license with an instrument rating. His broad experience in the aviation industry includes aircraft maintenance, flight testing, and aircraft certification.
Blanks currently chairs the ASTM F38-02 Subcommittee on UAS Flight Operations; he has also served on the board of directors for the Association for Unmanned Systems International, the world's largest unmanned-systems organization. He holds a master’s degree in aviation systems and a bachelor’s degree in aerospace maintenance management.