Articles

Drone Testing and Broadband Vie for Share of GO Virginia Grant Funding

Two tech-heavy proposals have been unanimously approved by Virginia's Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, but now an outside board must determine which project gets funding.

by Kimberly Pierceall, The Virginian-Pilot / September 25, 2017

(TNS) -- CHESAPEAKE -- Two ideas seeking a share of GO Virginia grant money have at least one thing going for them: an endorsement from the 17 member cities and counties in the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission.

On Thursday, the board gave unanimous approval to two proposals, one to build a drone testing zone including a 25-acre recreational park in York County and the second to link the broadband fiber-optic networks of Hampton Roads cities.

Both ideas need to be formally submitted to a regional GO Virginia board. If they pass muster, they go to the state GO Virginia funding board.

York County Economic Development Director James Noel Jr. said the idea for a drone park “bubbled up with the industry” that was having trouble finding places within FAA limits to test and fly unmanned vehicles. The proposal is looking for $2.5 million to buy 65 acres for the first phase, including developing runways and a road to a nearby creek for unmanned boat testing. Noel said the strategy of investing to beef up infrastructure “will truly make a difference to our local economy.”

Virginia Beach is leading the effort to link the region’s municipal broadband networks in hopes it’ll entice competing internet carriers to offer cheaper and faster service for residents and businesses. The proposal didn’t come with a price tag, but the regional GO Virginia board can only award a little more than $2 million based on population.

The state GO Virginia board will have an additional pool of money to request, but projects have to compete against others across the state. Proposed projects must promise to be job creators.

HRPDC executive director Bob Crum said the endorsements Thursday don’t preclude other groups with proposals to seek a vote to recommend. Timing could be a problem though. The Commission next meets Oct. 19. Applications are due to the GO Virginia regional board by Oct. 31.

©2017 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.