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Drones & Jobs

Virginia Tech/College of Engineering

There’s been a lot of attention on Drones recently.  But alongside concerns about privacy and military applications, is potential job creation in Virginia as a new industry rises. 

Virginia is one of seven sites selected for Drone testing research projects.  That got Virginia Tech’s office of economic development thinking about what that might mean for the state if this new industry takes off.  Estimates are as many as 100,000 jobs could be created, nationwide over the next ten years.

“Virginia is well positioned in terms of technology development especially and potentially attracting other industries in this larger vehicle cluster because of our current strength. So there’s room to grow even beyond what we already do and a good basis in terms of technology development already," says Jennifer Shand, Senior Economic Development specialist.

Shand says 360,000 people in Virginia currently work in related industries that could become part of unmanned vehicle future.  These are high tech jobs in fields such as satellite communications and navigation systems, computer programming, scientific and environmental design and more.  She says it’s less likely that vehicle manufacturing would come here. Instead, growth is forecast in the technology development sector.   

"Depending on how the industry changes globally, it can be a very good thing to be in the technology development stage vs. maybe the final vehicle manufacturing stage.  So to have our strength in technology development that’s something that’s very portable for a business, they can do consulting in a lot of different places even if the vehicle manufacturing doesn’t necessarily come to Virginia, because it’s a lot harder to set up a new manufacturing endeavor than it is to set up a new consulting or service business."

Virginia Tech’s office of Economic Development helps put interested parties together.  It can offer information on how firms engaged in related work can position themselves to become part of the pilotless plane industry.

Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.