Dr. Suzy Young and Jerry Hendrix in new AUVSI leadership positions

Dr. Virginia “Suzy” Young and Jerry Hendrix holding a drone.

Dr. Virginia “Suzy” Young is the first female chair of the AUVSI national board of directors. Jerry Hendrix is the incoming Huntsville AUVSI Pathfinder chapter president.

Michael Mercier | UAH

Two employees of The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of the University of Alabama System, are in new leadership positions in the 7,000-member Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

Dr. Virginia “Suzy” Young, director of UAH’s Office for Proposal Development, was named the first female chair of the AUVSI national board of directors. Dr. Young, who will serve for three years, will also author a policy blog.

Jerry Hendrix, director of UAV programs at UAH’s Rotorcraft Systems Engineering and Simulation Center, is the incoming Huntsville AUVSI Pathfinder chapter president.

Dr. Young says she is honored to serve with such a distinguished group of professionals on the AUVSI board from across the unmanned vehicle industry.

“I have been on the board for many years, but to serve as the chair only means I get to work closer with the great staff at AUVSI national and our industry partners,” she says.

“This is probably the most exciting era for the introduction of these systems – in the air, on land and at sea – into the national airspace,” Dr. Young says, citing the Department of Transportation’s work in automated vehicles and also programs like the June voyage of the Mayflower, the first transatlantic crossing of a fully autonomous ship.

“Commercial applications continue to grow as the needs of remote delivery, inspection, fire and rescue, surveillance and even the film industry are more apparent than ever, with expectations of more autonomy.”

AUVSI is preparing for its first live conference since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Atlanta, and Dr. Young was looking forward to re-connecting.

“I want to continue the theme of that conference, of ‘Assured Autonomy,’ and encourage progress in the area of making unmanned systems smarter, but also safer and reliable,” she says.

“Also, as a board member for the non-profit Robonation, I want to spend some time on more programs for STEM educational efforts, building on existing competitions for all ages, and encouraging more interaction with our future workforce,” Dr. Young says. “I love that our students at UAH have the opportunity to have hands-on knowledge of unmanned systems, and that this community is the home of the U.S. Army offices for all Army drones.”

Hendrix says that when he takes office in September, he looks forward to bringing opportunities to the local AUVSI to look at very broad aspects of the unmanned aircraft systems research being done in Huntsville.

“It’s an exciting time to lead this advocacy group to foster more community relationships across industry, new and evolving governmental partners and academia,” Hendrix says. “This offers a great opportunity for UAH’s AUVSI student organization to create great technical relationships.”

His efforts will focus on re-establishing communication and collaboration after the disruption of the pandemic, getting more people involved and presenting ideas at the monthly meetings held at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

“We will also strive to again make our AUVSI Pathfinder Conference world renowned by putting emphasis on the Department of Justice during one day of the conference, while maintaining our strong relationship with the Department of Defense,” he says. “And finally, our primary goal is to provide funding incentives to the STEM programs across our community in the robotic and unmanned systems areas, thus establishing our future students and work force.”

AUVSI is the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of unmanned systems and robotics. It represents corporations and professionals from more than 60 countries involved in industry, government and academia. AUVSI members work in the defense, civil and commercial markets.



Dr. Virginia “Suzy” Young

Jerry Hendrix

Jim Steele


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