It’s pretty cool that last week,Virginia’s governor, Terry McAuliffe, not only presided over the ribbon cutting of Wallops’ new drone airfield, but that he also hopped in and took a spin in one of the planes, leaving the driving to one of the ground techs.
The $5.8 million facility improvement will allow more and better use of test access for planes and cargo that are too sensitive to be landed at public airstrips.
Here’s an introductory video produced by NASA Wallops of the strip, followed by the press release giving more details.
Here’s the accompanying video description:
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe visited NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility May 18 for a ribbon-cutting on a new Unmanned Aerial Systems runway, a $5.8 million state-funded project officially known as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (MARS UAS) Airfield.
“The MARS UAS Airfield presents a significant new capability for Wallops and the Hampton Roads region,” Governor McAuliffe 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.”
Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Governor McAuliffe boarded an Aurora Centaur, an optionally piloted aircraft that can be operated remotely from a ground control station, and flew in the plane over Wallops Island.
“This new facility at Wallops provides government and commercial users with a runway under restricted airspace on a secure federal facility – discreetness that is of high interest for research and development,” Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said.
“The new UAS runway is an outstanding and strategic addition to the vast array of unmanned systems assets in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson. “The addition of these unique capabilities will provide the opportunity for even more companies and organizations to test their systems in Virginia.”
Additional details about the runway:
*The runway is 3,000 feet long and 75 feet wide.
*Its concrete pad measures 130 feet by 120 feet and is rated to 5,000 psi for Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) operations.
The airfield is surrounded by 75 square nautical miles of restricted airspace that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to unlimited altitude.
*The Virginia Department of Transportation managed construction of the $5.8 million, state-funded project.
*A 90-foot-by-50-foot hangar with a 70-foot-tall rollup door, lab space, communications and broadband connectivity will be under construction this summer.