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Virginia Sen. Mark Warner recently witnessed a demonstration of an unmanned aerial inspection at a quarry in Culpeper, prompting the veteran Democrat to express optimism about the industry.
Warner is no stranger to new technology, he made his name in the 1980s in the then-emerging wireless communications sector. He sees drones as a similar industry and believes naysayers will be proven wrong.
“People thought it would take 30 years to build a wireless system, and that the end of that about 3 percent of Americans would have cellphones. They were wrong and I did pretty well. I feel like this is the same kind of potential,” Warner said in a speech at the demonstration.
Cedar Mountain Stone Corp. uses drones to evaluate the effectiveness of controlled quarry explosions in the extraction of granite.
“We use drones for about every other blast to understand if we’re using the right amount of explosives,” company owner Ed Dalrymple told the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star.
Along with Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine, Warner recently helped seed nearly $1 million in government funding for collegiate UAV research programs in several Virginia colleges.
“Unmanned aircraft systems are becoming increasingly important in many industries, and have the potential to impact all sectors of the U.S. economy,” Warner said in a press release. “In my work on the Governor’s Unmanned Systems Commission, a key point of discussion has been that Virginia can set itself apart from its competition by creating a workforce pipeline of well-trained operators and researchers.”
Cedar Mountain Stone has launched a partnership with one such Virginia college, Germanna Community College, to train students to work with commercial drones.
During the quarry demonstration, senseFly, a drone company specializing in infrastructure mapping and inspection, captured telemetry over the entire quarry and uplinked vital data. Later, Warner performed a test flight of a senseFly Albris.
The drone mapping company has established expertise in the infrastructure sector, working with officials to inspect bridges and dams and has partnered with Air Navigation Pro to launch Safer Together an initiative to help mitigate the risk of mid-air collisions.
Drone safety is a message Warner hopes to reinforce with industry leaders. “We’ve got to constantly worry about safety concerns, cybersecurity, hacking, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to keep testing, keep pushing ahead,” he said.