Governor McAuliffe Operates Unmanned Systems in Air, Land and Sea

Governor McAuliffe Operates Unmanned Systems in Air, Land and Sea

WALLOPS ISLAND, VA — Governor Terry McAuliffe today operated unmanned systems in three domains – air, land, and sea – during a technology demonstration at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Unmanned Aircraft Systems (MARUAS) Airfield at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. The technology demonstration showed how scientists are using unmanned systems to study the impacts of major storms and sea-level rise on barrier-island dynamics as a means to shape policies for coastal resilience.

“Virginia is leading the way to leverage new technologies to better protect key natural and economic assets like our coastline,” said Governor McAuliffe. “By combining unmanned systems across all three domains we are collecting data that will provide greater insight into our coastline, demonstrating the transformative nature of these technologies, and highlighting the capabilities of this uniquely situated facility at Wallops. By leaning forward on emerging these emerging technologies, we can bring enormous benefits to our economy and our environment.”

Two Virginia universities, William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science and Randolph-Macon College of Ashland, teamed up with the University of Delaware to conduct the preliminary coastal-resilience study. This work serves as a pilot study for a larger, more comprehensive investigation of the coastal zone of Assateague, Chincoteague, and Wallops islands, formerly known as the Integrated Barrier Island Systems (IBIS) project.

“The science team is taking an unprecedented approach to informing coastal resilience by using cutting-edge manned and unmanned technologies in a way that will vastly magnify our understanding of the ever-changing coastline,” said Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson. “This study demonstrates the impact emerging technologies and collaboration can have on scientific discovery and problem-solving. This is exactly the type of activity we want to see more of here on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airfield.”

“It is increasingly important for decision-makers to have access to high-quality data as they prepare for the impacts of climate change,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward. “These unmanned systems will provide the types of information that we need as we work to make our communities more resilient.”

The science team is conducting the coastal study under the auspices of the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Resilience Institute (MACRI), founded in 2014. MACRI is a multi-state, multi-disciplinary partnership dedicated to integrated climate-change research with the goal of helping local and regional leaders make coastal habitats more resilient through scaled science and research informing public policy. For this first major MACRI study, the science team chose the Assateague-Chincoteague-Wallops islands system because it’s among the most dynamic on the U.S. East Coast.

“We’re very grateful for the Commonwealth’s continued support,” said VIMS Dean and Director John Wells. “Technologies such as aerial drones, ground-penetrating radar, and autonomous underwater vehicles can help us unravel the past and present dynamics of our coastal zone so we can better predict its future response to storms and sea-level rise. That knowledge provides a valuable decision-making tool for increasing coastal resiliency in Virginia and around the nation and world.”

“We’re extremely grateful for the Commonwealth’s investment in our study and commitment to coastal resilience,” Michael Fenster, principal investigator from Randolph-Macon College, said. “We’re using the best science and best technology available for a seamless, integrated approach for making this area resilient.”

Today’s demonstration highlights the Commonwealth’s commitment to leveraging our world-class portfolio of autonomy-related assets to help advance solutions to the ever increasing list of challenges impacting our environment, agriculture, public safety, and our citizens.

Find more information on the unmanned systems industry in the Commonwealth here.