With a thriving industrial and innovation ecosystem, a top-ranked business climate, and a highly skilled workforce, Virginia is an outstanding choice for aerospace and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) companies. In the past decade, 68 aerospace and UAS projects have been announced in Virginia, representing over 4,200 jobs and over $850 million in investment. Top companies that have recently chosen to locate or expand in Virginia include Rocket Lab, DroneUp, Aery Aviation, Boeing, Blue Origin, Dynamic Aviation Group, Silent Falcon UAS Technologies, MAG Aerospace, Raytheon, and General Dynamics.
Dynamic Industrial & Innovation Ecosystem
Virginia’s vibrant industrial and technological ecosystem provides an ideal home for the aerospace and UAS industries, which span subsectors from headquarters to manufacturers and suppliers. Numerous engineering and IT firms operate in Virginia, advancing aerospace and UAS programs and developing new technologies. On Virginia’s Eastern Shore, the NASA Wallops Flight Facility is one of only five locations in the United States licensed by the FAA to launch spacecraft into orbital trajectories. Major hubs of public and private R&D in Virginia include the National Institute of Aerospace, the Virginia Modeling, Analysis, and Simulation Center, and NASA’s Langley Research Center.
America’s Top State for Talent
Ranked No. 1 in the U.S. for Education by CNBC, Virginia has a strong aerospace and UAS industry workforce, which is projected to grow 11% over the next decade. The aerospace and UAS industries draw talent from thousands of service members who exit the armed services in Virginia every year — many with security clearances — and the state’s growing demographics and excellent school systems ensure a steady flow of new talent. Virginia’s K-12 schools are ranked No. 1 in the South (WalletHub, 2023), and its higher education system is ranked No. 2 in the U.S. (SmartAsset, 2022).
The Virginia Talent Accelerator Program — VEDP’s world-class customized talent acquisition and training solution — is available to new and expanding companies to ensure they can quickly attract and onboard high-quality employees. The program is offered at no cost to qualified companies as an incentive for job creation. As an alternative, Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP) grants are available for companies that prefer to manage their own recruitment and training.
Dynamic Aviation Soars in Virginia
For more than 50 years, Dynamic Aviation has leveraged the infrastructure, higher education institutions, and robust workforce in the Shenandoah Valley to provide innovative aviation solutions for government and commercial customers worldwide. The company has the flexibility and resources to deliver world-class aviation solutions that combine mission-modified aircraft, experienced flight crews, and comprehensive maintenance services. With more than 650 employees and a fleet of over 140 aircraft, including the world’s largest privately owned fleet of King Airs, Dynamic Aviation has operational experience in more than 80 countries. Blue Ridge Community College, located minutes from the region’s general and commercial aviation airport, provides advanced training to Dynamic Aviation through its FAA-approved Aviation Maintenance Technology program.
The company operates a 300,000-sq.-ft. heavy maintenance and modifications center, engine shop, and privately owned airport at its headquarters in Bridgewater. In 2020, Dynamic Aviation announced a $47.9 million expansion to establish a new office space, composite shop, and a new hangar to house its legacy aircraft, including the first Air Force One. Dynamic Aviation has been actively involved in VEDP’s renowned international trade programs since 2012, and is a 2013 graduate of the Virginia Leaders in Export Trade (VALET) Program, a two-year global export acceleration program that provides participating companies with assistance from a team of experienced international service providers to help meet their export goals.
DroneUp Takes Technology to New Heights
DroneUp, LLC, a leading drone flight services innovator and aviation technology provider, has operated in Virginia since its founding in 2016, focusing on delivering on-demand services to commercial, government, and military organizations.
The unmanned systems industry continues to flourish in Virginia, where in-depth education and training programs help develop a top innovative technology workforce for companies. With a need to support more than 20,000 drone pilots, DroneUp is expanding its headquarters in Virginia Beach and establishing a testing, training, and R&D center at Richard Bland College outside Petersburg, where curriculum for an unmanned aviation program is already in development. DroneUp’s Virginia Beach location has played a key role in attracting qualified talent from the many military installations in the
Hampton Roads region, and it continues to prioritize hiring veterans with niche technology experience.
In addition to the expanding headquarters facility and training center, DroneUp plans to establish three drone hubs at Walmart locations through a multi-year commercial services agreement with Walmart, Inc. to provide drone delivery services at 34 sites — potentially reaching 4 million U.S. households.
With technology-driven customers, DroneUp inspires the future of drone services, providing intelligent access to airspace, automation innovation, streamlined process management, operational efficiency, and a commitment to safety.DroneUp, Virginia Beach
Aeroprobe Sets Companies Up for Speed
Aeroprobe Corporation, a global producer of air data measurement systems to the aerospace, automotive, turbomachinery, wind turbine, and wind tunnel testing industries, has had a presence in Virginia for nearly two decades. All research, engineering, manufacturing, and testing of products and instruments is conducted at its headquarters in Christiansburg, Virginia. Aeroprobe’s second company division focuses on equipment sales and focused R&D for its proprietary additive manufacturing process.
Domestically and internationally, Aeroprobe has an established presence with a variety of energy production, transportation, and research companies. The rapid acceleration of the unmanned aerial systems market has necessitated the refocusing of efforts to increase its global presence.
Competing in a cutting-edge field requires access to top-tier talent. A critical element of Aeroprobe’s ability to attract the talent it needs is its Virginia location, minutes from Virginia Tech’s world-renowned Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering as
well as Radford University, where the Department of Physics offers a dual degree program with Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering. Students who complete the five-year program graduate with bachelor’s degrees in physics from Radford and engineering from Virginia Tech.
Like numerous other companies, Aeroprobe has found fertile ground for scientific innovation in the New River Valley — and strong markets for its products overseas.
At Aeroprobe, we strive to be revolutionary in technology and culture. Expanding our operations will allow us to pursue that goal at a new level, while also contributing to Virginia’s growing position as a technology leader.NANCI HARDWICK CEO, Aeroprobe Corporation Aeroprobe Corporation, Christiansburg
Robust Portfolio of Project-Ready Sites
Sites across all regions of Virginia are well suited to the aviation and UAS industries, including at least 20 runway-adjacent sites at major airports for maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) companies and fixed-base operations (FBO). Across the state, options for the aerospace and unmanned systems industries are expanding, with 300+ fully characterized sites of 25 acres or larger, dozens of certified sites, and a growing inventory of spec buildings and virtual buildings. Companies looking for ready-built options have abundant choices among thousands of buildings with over 20 million square feet of industrial space for lease, including more than 440 industrial buildings with 10,000 or more square feet available. Construction is underway on an additional 14.6 million square feet of industrial space.
Size and certification status of sites across Virginia
40+ sites are certified as project-ready under the Virginia Business Ready Sites Program
12 of Virginia’s certified parks have graded pad sites available for construction
20+ runway-adjacent sites for aerospace and UAS companies
Wallops Research Park
The Wallops Research Park, located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, is a prime location for aerospace and aviation operations, offering 200+ acres specifically for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and mediumclass space launch vehicles. The location is ideal for companies that seek to leverage the capabilities of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) and NASA Wallops Flight Facility.
In 2014, over $8 million in state and local funding was invested in the Wallops Research Park, through the efforts of the Wallops Leadership Council, NASA, the Chincoteague Bay Field Station, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and Accomack County. This investment funded, among other things, the construction of a 1,200-ft. taxiway, which leads to the NASA towered airfield with 8,748-ft. runways, as well as water, broadband, and electric infrastructure. Commercial and industrial lots are currently available, and 55+ acres are ready for pad development.NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Accomack County
There is a fantastic can-do attitude in Virginia to make sure that all of its businesses are successful. We have felt the full push of the Virginia team towards success, and it’s been really wonderful.PETER BECK Founder, President, and CEO, Rocket Lab
Rocket Lab Prepares for Liftoff in Virginia
In December 2019, Rocket Lab officially opened Launch Complex 2 at MARS on Wallops Island as the company’s first launch site in the United States. It was built specifically for the Electron rocket and represents Rocket Lab’s first planned mission from U.S. soil and a new national launch capability for the United States. The Launch Complex 2 project armed Rocket Lab with firsthand knowledge of the region’s advantages and Wallops Island’s unique capability to support both Neutron’s frequent launch cadence and the rocket’s return-to-Earth landing back at its launch site after liftoff.
The Eastern Shore of Virginia’s proven record of success in the aerospace industry and the skilled workforce and infrastructure in place gave Rocket Lab confidence that its new operation could thrive in Virginia. In February 2022, Rocket Lab announced Wallops Island as the location for its launch site and extensive manufacturing and operations facilities for the Neutron rocket.
Rocket Lab will launch the Neutron from a new Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority-owned launch pad that will be located within the NASA Wallops Flight Facility and Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport and close to Launch Complex 2. The 250,000-square-foot state-of-theart complex will be constructed on a 28-acre site adjacent to the Wallops Island Flight Facility and will include a Launch Control Center, Rocket Lab’s fifth global operations center for launch activities and on-orbit operations.
From ground to sky and beyond, the Commonwealth guarantees prime infrastructure, a robust talent pipeline, a highly innovative and collaborative ecosystem, and comprehensive industry expertise within Virginia’s educational institutions and research centers.
World-Class Transportation and Connectivity Infrastructure
Virginia’s airports, railways, ports, and roads provide an extensive network of transport links to supply chain and physical distribution networks. For aerospace and UAS operations, Virginia’s prime infrastructure asset is the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), one of only five facilities authorized by the FAA to launch rockets into space, with full-service commercial launch and drone testing facilities. Virginia ranks among the top 14 states for air cargo in the continental U.S. For corporate travelers, Virginia is serviced by 16 commercial airports, collectively providing nonstop flights to 100+ domestic and 50+ international destinations. Virginia is served by the third-largest port on the East Coast, two of the largest Class I railroads in the U.S., and six major interstate highways, including major North-South and East-West trucking routes.
Commonwealth Center for Aerospace Propulsion Systems (CCAPS)
Aerospace and Unmanned Systems Assets
General Aviation Airports
The Port of Virginia Terminals
Attractive, Stable, and Predictable Operating Environment
Ranked one of America’s top states for business, Virginia is frequently recognized for its business-friendly regulations, stable tax environment, and competitive cost of doing business. Virginia has the 5th-lowest private-sector unionization rate in the country, competitive costs of doing business, and state and local taxes that are lower than the nationwide average.
Virginia is the northernmost right-to-work state along the I-95 corridor.
Sound economic policy and prudent financial management has earned Virginia an AAA credit rating since 1938 — longer than any other state.
Virginia has had a stable 6% corporate income tax rate, one of the lowest in the nation, since 1972.
Exceptional Quality of Life
With a competitive cost of living, a mild four-season climate, and a diverse range of natural and cultural attractions, Virginia offers an exceptional quality of life. Vibrant urban centers and picturesque small towns are alive with arts, culture, history, and stunning landscapes. Outdoor enthusiasts are within easy driving distance to the scenic shorelines of Virginia’s beaches and rivers as well as hiking trails and mountain vistas. For these reasons and many others, Forbes ranked Virginia No. 1 in the U.S. for Quality of Life.Tinker Cliffs, Botetourt County Virginia Creeper Trail, Washington County
Wing, a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet, launched the first commercial drone delivery service in the United States in 2019,
Expertise • Collaboration
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s team of dedicated and knowledgeable professionals is committed to Virginia’s economic success, and connects industry-leading businesses to the resources they need to make relocations and expansions successful. From site selection, customized research, cost analysis, and coordination with public and private partners, to discretionary incentives and workforce solutions, VEDP’s services are tailored to companies’ unique requirements.
To learn more about VEDP’s expertise and resources, visit VEDP.org.
© August 2023