Purcellville Looks at Using Drones to Generate Revenue

The Town of Purcellville could see drones flying from town-owned property next year, another idea under consideration to generate more non-tax revenue for the municipality.

Town Council last week authorized Mayor Kwasi Fraser to move forward with the town’s application for the Department of Transportation’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program, which is operated conjunction with Federal Aviation Administration. If the town is selected, drones could be seen flying over the town-owned Aberdeen Property in an effort to get a better picture of the land. But that won’t be happening anytime soon, as the deadline for submission is next January, according to the town’s staff report.

The new program is designed to encourage drone operators to “partner with state, local and tribal governments to conduct advanced operations safely and with public support in affected communities,” according the report.

Fraser said he wants to see drones used on the Aberdeen Property—a 189-acre tract around the town’s reservoir on Short Hill Road—to look at forestry and agricultural assets. He said the data could then be analyzed and used to get companies interested in moving onto the property, which would ultimately provide the town with a new revenue source.

“This is an opportunity I see for getting Purcellville on the edge of innovative ideas within drone science,” he said.

Although many state and local governments from across the nation will apply, including the Loudoun County government, Fraser said the town has an advantage among other municipalities in the DC area because of its location outside of restricted airspace.

The DOT will select at least five applicants in 2019. If Purcellville is one of them, Fraser said there would be multiple public hearings for residents to ask questions and better understand the program.

“We don’t want drones flying over people or even farms without their consent,” he said.

According to the DOT website, the department will enter into agreements with the state, local or tribal governments “to establish innovation zones for testing complex UAS operations.” The department’s website also shows that more than one million drone owners have now registered with the FAA, with that number expected to increase five fold by 2021.

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