Piedmont Virginia Community College’s small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) program continues to grow with the acquisition of an additional drone that can fly at night and support from the Virginia Unmanned Systems (UMS) Commission.

In April, PVCC became the first college in the nation to receive blanket approval from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to conduct research and development of aircraft and sensors, including sUAS vehicles, for public safety. The college held its first course for emergency services personnel and first responders in May.

PVCC’s UAS fleet now consists of nine drones, including the college’s most recent acquisition, the “Endurance,” manufactured by Straight Up Imaging. According to Darren Goodbar, principal instructor for the program and the director of aerial services at Draper Aden Associates, the Endurance drone is equipped for night flight and includes thermal imaging, which can be used for search and rescue, situational awareness and fire assessment research.

Last week, the Virginia Unmanned Systems (UMS) Commission approved its recommendations to the Governor to increase business opportunities for the use of unmanned systems in the Commonwealth. These recommendations include funding the continued expansion of sUAS to be used by first responders in life-saving applications throughout Virginia.

“PVCC was honored to be included in the UMS recommendations,” said Valerie Palamountain, PVCC dean of workforce services. “Our curriculum for emergency services and public safety personnel will advance the use of sUAS technology, which will improve the safety of our first responders while lowering the cost of operations.”

To learn more about PVCC’s program, contact the PVCC Workforce Services Division at 434.961.5354, or by emailing workforce@pvcc.edu.

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