Virginia launches Flight Information Exchange to improve drone safety

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Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is one of the key stakeholders in a new project to enable sharing of information about unmanned aerial systems (UAS), to address key safety and policy concerns while keeping the airspace open, secure, and integrated within Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) control.

UAS – commonly referred to as drones – are an increasingly important tool for transportation departments, which are already putting them to use in asset surveys, as well as investigating their possible use for wider traffic management. However, safety concerns often hold back pushing the technology to its limits, which is where the new Virginia Flight Information Exchange should help.

The Virginia Flight Information Exchange is a platform for state and local government agencies to publish and share advisory information with each other, UAS Service Suppliers (USS), unmanned system operators, and the public to promote transparency and public safety. The pilot program will evaluate the benefits of information sharing, inform thoughtful regulation, and demonstrate a state-supported approach to UAS communications and coordination.

The pilot program was developed through a public-private collaboration with the Virginia DOAV, CIT and its Virginia Unmanned Systems Center, VDOT, and Advanced Technology Applications (ATA), a leading data science and engineering company in Northern Virginia.

Shannon Valentine, secretary of transportation, Virginia

“Innovation plays a critical role in the continuous evolution of Virginia’s multimodal transportation network,” says Virginia secretary of transportation Shannon Valentine. “The development of the Virginia Flight Information Exchange demonstrates Virginia’s commitment to collaborative solutions and the future of the emerging UAS industry sector.”

The Virginia Flight Information Exchange will be the first state-sponsored authoritative Supplemental Data Service Provider (SDSP) to exist in the FAA’s UAS Traffic Management (UTM), which is an ecosystem of infrastructure and protocols enabling the management of low- altitude drone operations.

“With one of the strongest technology workforces in the country, Virginia has been an aggressive early adopter of UAS, and the Flight Information Exchange furthers our Commonwealth’s reputation as an industry leader,” says secretary of commerce and trade Brian Ball.”By working with Virginia industry leaders like ATA, we support the growth of unmanned aerial systems capabilities and opportunities throughout the Commonwealth. We’re very proud that Virginia is playing a key role in UAS, and it’s exciting to be part of this rapidly evolving industry.”

“It is great to be working with a team willing to collaborate, experiment, and share lessons learned,” says Craig Parisot, CEO of ATA, LLC. “We are helping states and localities gain a necessary technical capability while setting an important example for how states can support the growth of UAS and commercial UTM solutions in a manner that best serves the public interest.”

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About Author

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs in charge of public agencies around the world as well as chairmen and CEOs of multinational transportation technology corporations. Tom's early career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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