By Tim Ryan

In an exciting stride towards the future, the Hampton Roads Executive Roundtable unveiled two groundbreaking studies today that spotlight the vast potential of the region’s aerospace industries. The studies, conducted by the Virginia Institute for Spaceflight and Autonomy (VISA) at Old Dominion University and the Hampton Roads Alliance, provide a comprehensive roadmap for integrating emerging technologies into our airspace, emphasizing the growth opportunities for uncrewed systems and advanced air mobility.

A Visionary Approach to Uncrewed Systems

The first study, led by VISA, focused on the Autonomous Systems (UxS) Route and Corridor Planning Grant. This initiative brought together a diverse group of stakeholders, including military, community, and private industry representatives, to explore the implementation and integration of uncrewed systems into the region’s airspace. The study underscored the unique complexity of Hampton Roads’ airspace, characterized by overlapping military, commercial, and port operations.

Key findings revealed that solving operational challenges in such a multifaceted environment could set a precedent for similar integrations globally. The study advocated for a regional approach to regulations to maintain consistency and domain awareness across various entities. Additionally, it recommended the establishment of a unified organization to collaborate with public planning and military communities, ensuring the seamless adoption of UxS and optimizing resource allocation.

Strategic Insights into Regional Aviation

The second study, commissioned by the Hampton Roads Alliance and conducted by USI Inc. and Swelbar Associates, delved into the Hampton Roads Air Study Planning Grant. This comprehensive evaluation of the region’s aviation assets identified numerous opportunities to enhance efficiency, competitiveness, and collaboration within Hampton Roads’ aviation ecosystem.

Findings highlighted the region’s robust assets and its strategic positioning to capitalize on the evolving aviation industry. The study proposed ten strategic recommendations, focusing on collaborative regional aviation planning, and identified nine new business sectors to pursue, particularly in advanced air mobility. These sectors encompass uncrewed systems, innovative passenger air service models, and aviation using alternative fuels.

Regional Leaders Applaud Forward-Thinking Efforts

Nancy Grden, President & CEO of the Hampton Roads Executive Roundtable, commended the strategic direction of VISA and the Hampton Roads Alliance, highlighting the alignment with GO Virginia Region 5’s Growth & Diversification Plan. “These studies provide a roadmap for the region to harness the autonomous and uncrewed revolution, bringing high-paying technology jobs to Hampton Roads,” stated Tom Frantz, Chair of GO Virginia Region 5.

David Bowles, Senior Research Fellow at VISA and ODU, expressed excitement about the collaborative efforts to grow the autonomous ecosystem in Hampton Roads. John Costulis, previous Deputy Director of VISA and GO VA Planning Grant Lead, emphasized the comprehensive nature of the studies, providing critical data and considerations for the region’s future planning.

A Bright Future for Hampton Roads

Doug Smith, President & CEO of the Hampton Roads Alliance, noted the timeliness of these studies, aligning perfectly with industry shifts and technological advancements. “The time is now to assess resource allocation, enhance connectivity, and position Hampton Roads for economic growth through new aviation sectors like Uncrewed Systems and Advanced Air Mobility,” Smith asserted.

These studies mark a significant milestone for Hampton Roads, paving the way for a future where innovative aerospace technologies can thrive, driving regional development and prosperity.

A copy of the press release can be downloaded here.

The entire Autonomous Systems (UxS) Route and Corridor Planning Grant report can be found here.

The entire Hampton Roads Air Study Planning Grant report can be found here.