RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Virginia-headquartered drone technology services company is expanding its operations in the state, a move expected to create 655 new jobs, officials announced Wednesday.
DroneUp LLC will invest $7 million to expand its Virginia Beach headquarters, creating 510 new jobs, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin's office said in a news release. The company will also invest $20.2 million to establish a new testing, training, and research and development center for drone operators at Richard Bland College in Dinwiddie County south of Richmond, the news release said. That project is expected to create 145 new jobs.
"This is an impressive and highly impactful project for Virginia Beach, Dinwiddie County, and beyond that represents a new age of technology for our society, and DroneUp is at the forefront of Unmanned Aircraft System development,” Youngkin said in a statement.
DroneUp previously announced an agreement with Walmart, which has a minority stake in the privately held company, to provide drone delivery services at 34 sites in the U.S. DroneUp said Wednesday that it planned to establish three “drone hubs” at Walmart locations in Virginia this year.
“Virginia is our home, and we are proud to be able to continue to bring new innovation, talent, and economic opportunities to our great state,” DroneUp founder and CEO Tom Walker said in a statement. "This investment and expansion will not only bring new career opportunities to our region, but also allow us to tap into the brightest minds around Unmanned Aircraft System development and design.”
The governor announced the expansion projects at a news conference outside the executive mansion in Richmond that featured a drone demonstration.
During remarks, Walker quipped that Youngkin had visited the company's headquarters and had the chance to fly a drone. His piloting skills made one employee remark, “I’m glad he’s the governor and not one of our pilots,” Walker said.
DroneUp works with more than 20,000 drone pilots to serve its customers, the news release said.
The project is eligible for a range of taxpayer-funded incentives, including over $5 million in grant funding. Virginia competed with Arizona, New York, North Carolina and Texas for the projects, according to the news release.