As director of the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP), Mark Blanks brings unparalleled aviation and unmanned systems expertise to the fulfillment of his role. Holding a Master of Science in Aviation Systems and a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Maintenance Management, Blanks possesses a unique blend of natural leadership skills and hands-on experience, making him a well-rounded leader who truly understands the unmanned systems industry and what it takes to continue growing within it.
Blanks has a long history of building successful programs. Prior to accepting the director position, he operated as program manager for Unmanned Aircraft Systems at the Applied Aviation Research Center at Kansas State University. Under his leadership, the UAS Program became the fastest growing program on the Salina campus and a top priority of the university. Before that, Blanks was instrumental in the formation of a similar program, which is still running today, at Middle Tennessee State University.
An accomplished researcher and manager who has led numerous sponsored research projects at both the federal and commercial levels, Blanks also has a strong background in technical disciplines. He is a FAA-licensed Airframe & Powerplant technician and holds a private pilot’s license with an instrument rating. Blanks has held a variety of positions in the aviation industry, including aircraft maintenance, flight testing, and aircraft certification.
Blanks serves as the chairman for the ASTM F38-02 Subcommittee on UAS Flight Operations and is the principal investigator on federally funded research projects with topics ranging from certification of small UAS to refinement of close range photogrammetric techniques. He also holds a nationally elected position on the Board of Directors for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the world’s largest association for unmanned systems.