MAAP director Mark Blanks and U.S. Senator Mark Warner observing a UAS operation.

two men watching a drone flight

Why use drones?
There are many tasks that unmanned aircraft, or drones, can conduct more efficiently and safely than manned aircraft or other types of techology. Getting high-resolution images of power lines, delivering emergency medical supplies to hard-to-reach areas, conducting aerial searches rapidly – these are just a few examples of jobs made safer and easier by drones’ maneuverability, multifunctional technology, and remote operability.  

Will the public have an opportunity to comment on the pilot program?
Yes. We’re looking forward to working with communities around Virginia to see how drones could add value to people’s lives. The feedback provided by the public in our testing communities will help inform current research and future policy development.

Where will you be flying?
Specific flight locations will be determined after evaluating the requirements of the operation and the safety considerations involved.

How will we be notified about upcoming operations?
Planned flight operations under this research effort will be posted in advance on the program’s website.

What kinds of flights will you be doing?
We’re focusing on three applications for drones: package delivery, emergency management, and infrastructure inspection. These are broad categories that can include flights at a variety of distances and altitudes, by different types of aircraft – all details that will be refined after a careful assessment of the environment, requirements of the operation, and relevant safety considerations.

How do you make sure that the operations are safe?
Every operation is preceded by an extensive analysis of potential risks, and specific strategies are put in place to mitigate those risks. The safety management process used by the team is the same basic process used for commercial aviation. Additionally, when we begin a new series of flights, we start with simple operations and move gradually to more complex ones, refining flight plans and safety measures at each step.

How long will the program last?
Three years – but some operations conducted under the pilot program may continue after it ends, if data and feedback gathered during the pilot supports their safety and value.