VISA and CIT launch program to develop unmanned systems playbook for Hampton Roads and Eastern Shore

August 2, 2021

The Virginia Institute for Space Flight & Autonomy (VISA) and Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) have launched a program to develop a Hampton Roads-Eastern Shore Unmanned Systems (UxS) Strategic Playbook to focus on the continued development and expansion of unmanned ground, aerial, maritime, and space technologies.

The announcement of the playbook and search for UxS solutions began with the Unmanned Systems UxS Industry Engagement Summit on July 28 at Half Moone Cruise & Celebration Center at Nauticus. The event, attended by more than 150 Hampton Roads innovation leaders, presented challenges identified by public safety leadership during an intensive maritime safety workshop held a few weeks ago. Those challenges were presented at the Summit to industry representatives to initiate creative solutions and problem-solving options that utilized autonomous technologies for faster, safer, and more cost-effective emergency response.

The workshop was conducted with support from the Office of the Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security. The participants, which included the U.S. Coast Guard, the Virginia Port Authority, the Center for Naval Analysis, and local public safety agencies, evaluated new autonomous technologies and determined their potential impact and effectiveness at maritime ports. It also included a several mock challenges to focus engagement with industry on specific real-world scenarios using autonomous technology for better, faster, cleaner, and more efficient emergency responses.

VISA is a research enterprise of the Virginia Modeling, Analysis, and Simulation Center (VMASC) at Old Dominion University in Norfolk. As the nonprofit operations arm of the Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority (VIPA), CIT is the primary source for information, grants, partnerships, and seed funding for UxS in the Commonwealth. Through a memorandum of understanding, VISA will initiate and implement pilot programs in Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore to support CIT’s UxS strategic plan to grow the industry across Virginia.

“VISA and CIT will work together to identify promising business opportunities for innovators of unmanned technology in Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore,” said Tracy Tynan, director of the Virginia Unmanned Systems Center at CIT. “By working with VISA, we will capitalize on the strengths of the region to build on the Commonwealth’s industry leadership to encourage customer demand.”

In addition, CIT is creating the Virginia Public Safety Innovation Center (VPSIC), which will be led by Chris Sadler, the deputy chief/deputy director of York County Fire and Life Safety. The VPSIC will test emerging technologies and their ability to aid and benefit first responders and the communities they serve. It will help ensure public safety agencies across the Commonwealth have access to the latest technology to support their missions.

“The agreement between VISA and CIT is another positive step forward for the growth and development of unmanned systems technologies and opportunities in Virginia,” said David Bowles, the executive director of VISA. “The ongoing development of the UxS Strategic Playbook for Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore will help pilot projects and initiatives move from discussion to opportunity as region’s needs and challenges are identified.”

The VISA and CIT executives say there are numerous existing resources to build the UxS industry in the region, including a long coastline with access to open water, world-class rocket launch facilities, federal defense and civilian government installations for research and development, advanced manufacturing centers, and a highly skilled workforce.

About VISA: The Virginia Institute for Spaceflight and Autonomy (VISA) is chartered to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystems for space flight and autonomy. The Institute will be the hub to leverage Virginia’s world-class assets in space launch, autonomous systems, modeling and simulation and data science to solve real-world problems. Through industry, academic, and governmental agency partnerships, our vision is to create an environment of research, technology, commercialization, and educational opportunities to grow the spaceflight and autonomous systems industry.

About CIT: As part of the new Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority (VIPA), CIT, the Virginia Center for Innovative Technology, accelerates next-generation technologies and technology companies through commercialization, capital formation, and market development initiatives. The Virginia Unmanned Systems Center at CIT focuses on engaging and connecting emerging UxS technology companies with opportunities to innovate in all domains: land, air, sea, and space.


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