A commercial drone company announced plans to invest $350,000 in a drone operations command and control center in Covington. The project will create 25 new jobs.

Aeronyde Corp., based in Melbourne, Florida, provides aerial informatics to the energy, infrastructure, agriculture, forestry and public safety industries.

The company focuses on drone-based data acquisition and machine learning analysis, according to a news release from Gov. Ralph Northam’s office.

Virginia competed with California and Florida for the project, which is being supported by the Virginia Jobs Investment Program. The program provides consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs to reduce human resources costs.

Aeronyde will join the Alleghany Highlands Drone Zone, a drone research and recreational facility in Covington. The project started in fall 2017 after receiving $100,000 in federal funding to convert a former primary school into a drone research center. The grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission was matched with $100,000 in local money.

Dabney S. Lancaster Community College, which has its main campus in Clifton Forge, created an 18-hour career studies certificate in drone technology earlier this year to complement the Drone Zone initiative. The certificate prepares students for entry-level positions in drone operations and maintenance.

“The City of Covington is excited to welcome Aeronyde Corp. to its Drone Zone facility,” Mayor Thomas Sibold said in the news release. “We look forward to the added value and civic innovations yet to be realized through the utilization of new and emerging technologies like those of Aeronyde.”

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Alison Graham covers Botetourt and Rockbridge counties and Lexington. She’s originally from Indianapolis and a graduate of Indiana University.

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