ACEA Announces $150,000 Award to Fund Drone Training Program for Veterans

The Atlantic County Economic Alliance (ACEA) has announced that it has received congressionally directed funding in the amount of $150,000 for a training program intended to assist veterans to become drone pilots and find jobs in the aviation and film industries. The announcement was made during a press conference held at the National Aerospace Research & Technology Park in Egg Harbor Township, NJ, where the ACEA offices are located.

The ACEA’s President, Lauren Moore Jr., introduces U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), during a hybrid press conference announcing funding for a program to train veterans to become licensed drone pilots in southern New Jersey.

Senator Cory Booker, who helped to secure the funding for the program, which will be administered through the U.S. Department of Labor, attended the event via livestream from Washington, D.C.

“Showing gratitude to our veterans means providing them with the support and resources they need to thrive in civilian life,” said Sen. Booker. “I’m proud to secure funding for ACEA’s drone training program to provide veterans with in-demand skills training and job opportunities, as well as strengthen New Jersey’s aviation and film industries.”

The Veterans Film Apprenticeship program was created by Lisa Regina, a filmmaker who is a licensed drone pilot and an advocate for veterans. Her company, A Write to Heal, concentrates on offering training opportunities to vets in drone and other aviation-related technologies. The $150,000 in funding will cover the cost of training veterans to receive their Part 107 commercial drone pilot’s license and then help them find work in the film and aviation industries, with mentoring offered throughout the process.

“We reached out to Senator Booker’s office a year ago and submitted a request for $150,000 to fund this worthy program that will give vets the training they need to be successful drone pilots,” said Lauren Moore, Jr., President of the ACEA. “We were pleased that this request was fully funded and put those who served on a career path to success as a drone pilot, a position in demand in filmmaking, search and rescue, real estate, and aviation innovation companies, just to name a few of the opportunities.”

Regina uses drones extensively in filmmaking and plans to utilize them while producing a television video series about veterans entitled, “Heroic Episodes,” which will be filmed in and around Atlantic City. Some participants in the Veterans Film Apprenticeship program may be offered opportunities to gain real filmmaking experience by working on the series.

A Write to Heal participated in an accelerator program for early-stage aviation-related companies in 2021. The accelerator program, administered by the Smart Airport and Aviation Partnership (SAAP), is funded by a $1.6M USEDA Innovation Challenge Grant awarded to the ACEA in late 2019.

According to Carole Mattessich, Director of the SAAP, “We are so proud to see Lisa Regina and Write to Heal come through the SAAP’s Aviation Business Accelerator program and create this opportunity for veterans to take advantage of uncrewed aerial systems technologies to create fantastic career opportunities. Veterans are a principal area of focus for the SAAP and we are confident that participants in the Veterans Film Apprenticeship will find opportunities with the numerous drone companies that have been a part of our accelerator program.”

“The Veterans Film Apprenticeship is a chance for veterans to heal from the traumas of war and assimilate back into civilian life,” said Regina. “I am a drone pilot and I went through the [Part 107 drone license] test; it’s not easy. So, mentoring and support are important. Once they pass the test, they receive their license, but the program doesn’t end there. We want them to be able to make a living, so job placement is a big part of this program. I have many inroads in the filmmaking community and made so many fantastic connections with drone companies thanks to my company’s recent participation in the flightPlan Aviation Accelerator program, so we have lots of ways to help these veterans network and find opportunities for work as a commercial drone pilot.”

As a high-profile example of Regina’s inroads with the filmmaking community, Tony-Award-winning actor Joe Mantegna, best known for his starring role in CBS TV series Criminal Minds, also appeared during the press conference via livestream. Mantegna called in to voice his support for Regina’s drone/film apprenticeship program for veterans.

“This training program is yet another sign of the positive interplay between the ACEA, the SAAP, and the NARTP as we work together to build out the southern New Jersey Aviation Innovation Hub,” said the ACEA’s Moore. “The SAAP’s flightPlan Aviation Accelerator program is incubating early-stage aviation businesses like Lisa Regina’s Write to Heal to become thriving participants in the aviation ecosystem here. Some of them might even become tenants at the NARTP, where we have just cleared the ground to begin construction on a second building where aviation companies will make advances in aviation research technologies just steps from the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center and the smart airport testbed at Atlantic City International Airport.”

Moore added that more training opportunities for veterans will be coming to the Aviation Innovation Hub in the not-too-distant future. The ACEA has partnered with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the U.S. Air Force 305th Maintenance Group of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, and Atlantic Cape Community College to co-develop the Aviation Training Academy of the Future (ATAF) at Atlantic City International Airport. Authorization to fund initial design and architectural work on the ATAF was recently approved in the National Defense Authorization Act.

For more information about the Veterans Film Apprenticeship program, visit or call Write to Heal at (609) 468-7474.

For more information about the ACEA, visit or contact the ACEA’s Lauren Moore, Jr. at (609) 245-0019 or