Uncrewed Systems


Industry leaders, researchers, and partners have collaborated to make the Virginia’s New River Valley one of the strongest regions in the U.S. for the Unmanned Systems sector. The NRV is “A Natural Fit” for the growing UAS industry.











Drone Flying Virginia Tech Kentland Farm

Business Community

The business community in the NRV is very collaborative. Companies like Techsburg, VPT, Maxtena, Optical Cable Corp, and Moog are making this area a hotspot for the UAS industry. Area companies have formed the Ridge and Valley chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the world’s largest organization devoted exclusively to advancing the unmanned systems and robotics industries. The area is also served by the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC), which is a catalyst for innovation, networking, and leadership in the NRV and surrounding regions.

R&D Facilities

The Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, which is based at the VT Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science, is one of seven organizations in the entire U.S. that can establish FAA test sites for unmanned aerial systems. MAAP worked with NASA on Project Wing to research how multiple aircrafts could safely share the same airspace. The region also has a 85′ high drone cage on the VT campus for UAS testing. The NRV is home to 2 FAA test sites: one at Kentland Farms, and one at the Virginia Smart Roads, where companies can safely test their products. The Smart Road is a 2.8 mile test track (above) with weather-making capabilities and extensive research opportunities and is used by companies such as GM and Google.

New River Community College Drone Test


The history of manufacturing and information technology in the NRV creates a workforce full of innovative problem-solvers with various levels of experience. New River Community College offers Engineering Design Technology and Architectural & Engineering Design Specialization in which students work on Unmanned Ground and Aerial Vehicle projects. Virginia Tech has the #9 best public college of engineering in the U.S. and produces graduates who are skilled and ready to enter the workforce at a high level. Some of the engineering programs include Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Aerospace Engineering.


Unmanned Systems Accolade 1

Unmanned Systems Accolade 2

Unmanned Systems Accolade 3


Aeroprobe Logo
Torc Logo
VPT Logo
Wing Logo


Unmanned Systems Robotics Clubs

Robotics Clubs

There are several robotics clubs in the NRV, including the Tuxedo Pandas, a club for students from 7th to 10th grade. They build robots and promote STEM throughout the NRV while participating in the global robotics program For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Tech Challenge. The pandas even went to China for the World Robotics Conference, which consists of a forum, exhibition, and robot competition.

Unmanned Systems VT Drone Cage

Aerial Research

The drone cage on the Virginia Tech campus is a $1.2 million 300’ x 120’ unmanned aerial vehicle netted facility that is 85′ high. It is a part of a $75 million plan to emphasize intelligent infrastructure. Plus, Virginia Tech’s Kentland Farm has several FAA Certificates of Operation. The primary purpose is to enable experimental research involving small flight vehicles. VTTI also has about 400 acres of aerial space for UAV testing.

Unmanned Systems Virginia Smart Roads

Vehicle Research

VTTI operates the Virginia Smart Roads, a unique, state-of-the-art, closed test-bed research facility, which is an FAA approved testing site. It has weather-making capabilities, one of the tallest bridges in Virginia, and allows testing for real vehicles in realistic settings. The Smart Road was established in 2000 and has hosted 28,000 hours of research. Expansions for testing include a customizable urban track and a rural road.

Nanci Hardwick Riverstone Blue

I love the business culture of the New River Valley. It’s one of the greatest things about being located here. The people are real and the community is very supportive. There isn’t the competitiveness that is present in other communities and we work together a lot more.”

Nanci Hardwick, Aeroprobe & MELD CEO


Unmanned Systems Radford University

Radford University

The Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL) at Radford University began a drone research program in Spring 2018. Large and small models are being used for simulations, photography, flight protocol development, and battery life extension. One of the program’s ultimate goals is to work with classes on Radford’s campus that are interested in drone technology.

Unmanned Systems New River Community College

New River Community College

The Engineering Design Program has been recognized by the American Drafting and Design Association (ADDA) as one of the top programs in the country. The program has a focus on “Reverse Engineering” technology, 3D modeling and design, virtual and physical 3D prototyping, Rendering and Virtual Animation.

The Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Components & Maintenance course provides an introduction to the basic equipment and techniques used in maintaining, repairing, and upgrading sUAS to assure airworthiness and proper operation of the other components.

The Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) Remote Pilot Ground School course prepares students for the FAA written examination required to obtain the Remote Pilot certificate with sUAS rating.

Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) is the second largest university-level transportation institute in the U.S. With more than $45 million in annual sponsored R&D expenditures, VTTI is the #1 research facility for both federal and private contracts. It houses 15 research centers and 3 that are nationally known such as the Safety Through Disruption National University Transportation Center.

Virginia Tech research related to UAS is extensive and spans a number of departments and programs. Research areas include guidance and control; sensing and navigation; mobility and actuation; modeling, analysis and design; safety and cybersecurity; power electronics; wireless communication; human/computer interaction; discovery analytics; sociotechnical systems; and transportation.

Andy Schaudt Riverstone Blue

“The New River Valley has been the perfect spot for VTTI to perform cutting-edge transportation safety research the past 30 years. In collaboration with industry leaders, we have been researching the disruptive potential of automated vehicles to make the roadways safer here in the U.S. and abroad. Overall this region a perfect hub for unmanned system innovation.”

Andy Schaudt, VTTI Center for Automated Vehicle Systems Program Director

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