Winchester, Virginia Tests Drones In 10 Certified Pilots

The City of Winchester, VA is testing drone technology to assess if using drones could be helpful in improving efficiency in several city programs. Part of the Innovative Municipalities initiative, the test scenarios will be done in collaboration with Virginia Beach-based company DroneUp, City staff, and The Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) –  the non-profit operations arm of the Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority (VIPA).

Winchester’s Emergency Management Division currently operates the City’s Drone Program and manages the Drone Team, which currently consists of 10 certified pilots. The team uses five drones to assist in various situations for public safety, public services. and communications activities. If the testing is successful, the city’s current drone program will probably be expanded.

“Through the Innovative Municipalities initiative and by partnering with DroneUp, The CIT, and various other organizations, the city hopes to enhance its drone program and take full advantage of the opportunities drones can provide in improving efficiency of local government operations,” said Scott Kensinger,  Emergency Management Coordinator.

The drones will be tested in five citywide programs: water meter usage data collection; local road pavement inspections; energy loss detection; city mapping; and tree health inspections.

The city is also working with the Virginia Flight Information Exchange (FIX) and the Winchester Regional Airport to test the use of drones for commercial purposes, along with ensuring the safety of the airspace for both manned and unmanned operations.

“We’re trying to expand and see what other city functions the technology can help us with,” said Shawn Hershberger, City of Winchester development services director. “We try on (the) city level to be ahead of innovation and try to be an innovative community as much as possible.”