Virginia Drone Conference Targets Public Safety Uses

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One of the first colleges to launch an FAA-approved drone education program for police and fire departments plans to launch a three-day conference to build on past successes.

Piedmont Virginia Community College is organizing the Second Annual Public Safety Unmanned Aerial Systems Conference in Crozet, Va., March 5-7.

The conference is designed “for law enforcement, public safety, search and rescue, emergency services and disaster relief professionals who are integrating, utilizing or in the process of adopting drones as part of their operations,” according to event organizers.

The event will include workshops, breakout sessions, networking events as well as disaster/response demonstrations.

Organizers say representatives from the FAA, DARPA, FBI and Homeland Security will headline several presentations.

In addition, a variety of drone-related companies will be on hand, including DJI, Yuneec, FLIR, PrecisionHawk, Pix4d, SwissDrones, Altus, Altavian, Flyability, Flymotion, Kongsberg Geospatial, and HoverFly.

Organizers hope the second annual event will outfly the conference’s inaugural success in 2017. More than 220 attendees from the U.S., Canada and Europe attended this year, as well as public-safety representatives from 21 state and national agencies and 14 drone vendors.

The 2018 conference is one more success for PVCC’s drone program. In 2016, the college earned a Blanket Certificate of Waiver/Authorization from the FAA to conduct research and development of aircraft and sensors, including drones, for public safety agencies.

The COA allows the college to test UAV aircraft and specifically test sensors used by public-safety agencies in emergency-scenario conditions.

“The value of [drone use] in public safety is phenomenal,” Charles Werner, retired fire chief of the City of Charlottesville and consultant to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management said. Werner is a senior adviser for the program.  “PVCC’s innovative and impressive program will undoubtedly enable public safety to implement sUAS operations safely and effectively,” he added.

PVCC is among several American community colleges diving into the drone arena. In Virginia, Germanna Community College has created a partnership with Cedar Mountain Stone to train students to work with commercial drones. North Carolina colleges Edgecombe Community College and Lenoir Community College both unveiled drone programs in 2016.  LCC’s program will grant students an associate’s degree in drone piloting – the first ever in the state.


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