Future Tense

Obama Administration Allocates $2.2 Million to Teach Former Coal Workers to Fly Drones

A & G Coal Corporation surface mining operations in the Appalachian Mountains in Wise County, Virginia, on April 16, 2012.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

The Obama administration has a plan to invest in training programs for people who used to work in the country’s dying coal industry. And that plan includes allocating more than $2 million to teaching former coal workers in Virginia to fly drones.

In all, the funding announced Oct. 26 totals nearly $28 million and will support 42 projects in 13 states.

According to a White House statement, a $2.2 million grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission will go toward preparing five counties in southwestern Virginia to become leaders in the “emerging drone industry” in the U.S. It continued:


The award will enable Mountain Empire Community College to offer courses that train students, including former coal industry workers, to operate drones and drone sensors to provide commercial and government services—including geospatial surveys, close-up inspections of fixed structures, and mapping. The award will train 64 new workers, leverage $15,000,000 in additional investment, and enable a private aerospace company in the region to perform work on a major contract—thereby creating 210 new direct and indirect jobs.

As Recode reported, this grant is the “second installment of the White House’s economic redevelopment plan for coal country.” In August, the administration announced $38.8 million for 29 development projects that aim to “assist communities negatively impacted by changes in the coal industry and power sector.”