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Department of Aviation Celebrates the Success of VA-FIX

The Virginia Department of Aviation (DOAV), together with its partners at the Unmanned Systems Center at Virginia’s Center of Innovative Technology (CIT), the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and Virginia-based ATA LLC, proudly celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Virginia Flight Information Exchange (VA-FIX). In the first twelve months, 41 agencies and entities have joined the exchange.

“DOAV is excited about VA-FIX as it enters its second year in production. VA-FIX, providing authoritative data as a public service, underscores Virginia’s commitment to the safest, most open airspace in the nation” said DOAV Director Mark K. Flynn.

The VA-FIX program is the first of its kind in the nation. Initially launched as a pilot program, the VA-FIX officially went into production in August 2020. The program works closely with Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) users and industry, exemplifies the benefits of data-sharing as public infrastructure, informs thoughtful regulation through stakeholder engagement, and demonstrates a public approach to UAS communications and information as the Commonwealth’s UAS Authoritative Supplemental Data Service Provider (ASDSP).

VA-FIX allows information sharing in the most transparent, open way possible while also respecting operational security and privacy requirements, especially in public safety data. The system allows for multiple ways to connect and share information, including web-based and programmatic alternatives. VA-FIX is intentionally designed to leverage existing standards, open-source technologies, and background intellectual property developed in the private sector that is being transferred to the Commonwealth of Virginia. By taking this approach and applying design principles, it allows the Commonwealth to develop, deploy, and maintain VA-FIX quickly and economically to the benefit of the residents of the Commonwealth, state and local government stakeholders across the Nation, and the UAS Industry.

In December 2020, Virginia announced the signing of Skyward, a Verizon company, as the first Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved UAS Service Suppliers (USS) with a Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC). Since then, DOAV has welcomed six more LAANC capability providers: Virginia-based ATA LLC and DroneUP; Michigan-based Airspace Link; Texas-based Skygrid; North Carolina-based Aloft, and California-based WING, an Alphabet company. Each consumes VA-FIX data via an application interface (API) available to all 16 FAA-approved USS.

Dr. Amber L. Wilson, DOAV manager of aviation technology said, “These seven LAANC providers have joined the successful integration of 92 users representing 34 agencies across the Commonwealth, totaling 41 entities. USS providers offer critical integration with the commercial UAS industry, ensuring that UAS Operators in the Commonwealth have the best information at their fingertips. Virginia is and will remain deeply committed to transparency and openness in our airspace while supporting safety and awareness. VA-FIX is a great demonstration of what can happen when multiple stakeholders collaborate for the benefit of the public, industry and government.”

The VA-FIX program has resulted in a great deal of interest and outreach from other states and the community at large. Many state and local governments, industry participants, and research centers have reached out to DOAV to understand how Virginia created and operates this model. The VA-FIX has been featured in many leading industry sources, such as The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), InterDrone, National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO), and held numerous webinars for stakeholders to send a clear message that Virginia is open for UAS business.

For two consecutive years (2019 and 2020), Virginia earned the #1 ranking for UAS by Business Facilities magazine.

The Department of Aviation’s mission is to:
Develop an advanced aviation system that is safe, secure, and fosters economic development;
Build an appreciation by the public for the importance of aviation and to inspire the next generation of aviation professionals; and
Provide safe and highly efficient flight services for the Commonwealth’s leadership and state agencies.