VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – The buzz around DroneUp, a rapidly growing tech firm headquartered on Newtown Road in Virginia Beach, was a part of a visit to Hampton Roads by the governor Thursday.
DroneUp gave Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) a chance to show his piloting skills.
DroneUp says it is the fastest-growing drone services firm in the nation. With just 12 employees a year ago, the company now has 125 and expects to have 600 by the end of next year.
Its biggest investor is Walmart, and it’s already delivering Walmart items in the mammoth retailer’s home state of Arkansas.
What are the top three most drone-delivered items so far? Hamburger helper, mac and cheese, and coming in third — and not so predictably — kiwi.
Chief Technology Officer John Vernon showed Youngkin a bank of video monitors on the company’s third floor.
“That was a feed actually out of Arkansas and we can monitor really from anywhere in the world,” Vernon said. DroneUp has controlled drones from as far away as Israel.
Youngkin presented a V3 “Virginia Values Veterans” award to the company for its emphasis on hiring veterans.
“To have the opportunity to share with him what we are doing, I think is an acknowledgment of the effort of our team and it meant a lot to us,” said DroneUp CEO Tom Walker.
Youngkin also talked about legislation in the General Assembly that will get rid of mask mandates. He calls it a major step forward in the debate.
“Now we have a bipartisan effort to give parents the right to make a decision for their kids. This is not pro mask and anti-mask. If parents want their kids to wear a mask Please have them wear a mask. It does give parents the ability to opt out,” Youngkin said, adding that he hopes to get the legislation passed on an emergency basis, so that it can be in effect within a few weeks.
Youngkin’s tour of the region Thursday was his first visit here since he was sworn into office last month.
His day began with a tour of Fort Monroe in Hampton, and then on to Seatack Elementary An Achievable Dream Academy. According to the school’s website, the timing coincided with a school board policy review committee meeting.
Finance Secretary Stephen Cummings, Commerce and Trade Secretary Caren Merrick and Veterans and Defense Affairs Secretary Craig Crenshaw accompanied the governor.
The last stop in Hampton Roads Thursday was scheduled for Anchor Allie’s restaurant on Independence Boulevard.
Gov. Youngkin will be back in the WAVY viewing area Friday. He is speaking at William & Mary’s 2022 Charter Day ceremony, during which he will also receive an honorary degree from the university.