On May 19, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., will offer the opening remarks for “Drones in America,” a panel discussion with Virginia Tech and industry experts about public policy on unmanned aircraft systems, congressional oversight, and federal rulemaking on research and development, safety, and privacy.

Former Congressman Jim Moran will serve as moderator for the discussion, set for 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at 485 Russell Senate Office Building, 2 Constitution Avenue NE, in Washington, D.C.

The event is open to the public but space is limited, so an RSVP is required to events.president@vt.edu by Monday, May 16.

In recent months, unmanned aerial vehicles or unmanned aircraft systems have appeared in international headlines for reasons ranging from their innovative commercial uses to privacy and safety issues.

The market research firm Tactica recently released a forecast that "drone-enabled" services will grow from $170 million today to $8.7 billion by 2025. With continual advances in technology and their increasingly widespread use, high-level discussions of unmanned aircraft systems and issues surrounding them are important, organizers say.

The panelists are:

  • Marke “Hoot” Gibson, senior advisor on unmanned aircraft systems for the Federal Aviation Administration
  • Rose Mooney, executive director of the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership
  • Bruce Walker, vice president, homeland security, civil, regulatory and international affairs, Northrop Grumman Corporation
  • David Ransom, partner, McDermott Will & Emery LLP
  • Patrick Roberts, associate professor of public administration and policy, School of Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech is a leader in unmanned aircraft systems research, which has led to pioneering work across disciplines, from agriculture to journalism to emergency management.

The university also oversees one of only six national test sites for unmanned aircraft systems in the country. Some of the university’s groundbreaking missions include the first research flights investigating medical supply delivery to remote locations and work with NASA towards a traffic management system for unmanned aircraft.  

The event is sponsored by Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies

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