The DJI Inspire 1 drone - The model flown by Matteus Frankovich and SkycladAP Credit: Credit: DFSB DE via Flickr

(Charlottesville, Va.)—Piedmont Virginia Community College has received approval from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to conduct research and development of aircraft and sensors, including unmanned aerial vehicles, for public safety. The Blanket COA (Certificate of Waiver or Authorization) is a first in the nation from the FAA and reflects positively on the ongoing efforts of PVCC in supporting the effective integration of small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) in emergency response. The COA will allow agencies and third-party operators to test aircraft and sensors during scenario based incidents.

The PVCC curriculum incorporates sUAS pilot training, technical training on sUAS and use-case scenarios to integrate the sUAS technology in simulated emergencies.

“The agencies can select the scenarios that are most appropriate for the type of emergencies they will encounter, which makes the training more meaningful,” said Valerie Palamountain, dean of Workforce Services at PVCC. “In addition, data collected during the scenarios will be used to improve the deployment of sUAS technology in public safety.”

Charles Werner, retired fire chief of the City of Charlottesville and consultant to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) was a contributor and senior adviser in the development of the curriculum.

“The value of the use of sUAS in public safety is phenomenal. PVCC’s innovative and impressive program will undoubtedly enable public safety to implement sUAS operations safely and effectively,” Werner said.

Darren Goodbar, the principal instructor, and the director of aerial services at Draper Aden Associates, developed the 40-hour curriculum and shepherded the COA through the FAA approval process. 

“It is a great opportunity to work with PVCC, members of the community and the sUAS industry in creating the first, comprehensive curriculum for incident response in the U.S. and providing the means to conduct research and development of aircraft and sensors that will be utilized by those that need them most,” said Goodbar.

PVCC will offer its first class on May 9 at the college’s Main Campus at 501 College Drive in Charlottesville. Manufacturers and vendors are invited to test and develop sUAS for public safety integration through their COA.

For more information, contact Workforce Services at 434.961.5354, or by emailing