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Drone skills pay off for DMME official

Southwest Virginia Bureau • Updated Oct 6, 2016 at 3:07 PM

BIG STONE GAP — Drone expertise has landed a top national award for a Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals & Energy official.

DMME Geographic Information Supervisor Daniel Kestner has been awarded the Dean Spindler Reclamationist of the Year Award for 2016 from the National Association of State Land Reclamationists (NASLR).

The Saltville native joined the state mine regulatory agency in 2001. Over the past year, Kestner has led DMME’s efforts in drone technology, attending a pilot school and FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) training to obtain the proper certifications to fly unmanned aerial systems (commonly referred to as drones).

Kestner helped DMME inspectors to more easily map abandoned mine land hazards by developing an application for their smart phones. He also works with federal and other state agencies to promote innovations and other technology in reclamation and is often asked to give presentations so others can learn about his experiences and contributions to land reclamation.

The Reclamationist of the Year Award is the second national honor received by a DMME employee. Ken Comer, a reclamation inspector supervisor, received the honor in 2014.

DMME Mined Land Reclamation Director Randy Casey said he was not surprised Kestner landed the award this year.

“Daniel is always searching for a way to do the job better. He instituted drone technology for our entire agency and continues to bring cutting edge ideas to the forefront in our efforts to protect the environment,” Casey said.

“He is one of the best on my team and clearly has accomplished environmental goals that have inspired other reclamationists in the U.S.”

Kestner said the DMME’s efforts to promote and ensure effective reclamation practices “are phenomenal. Reclamationists across this country have the same passion and drive to do the same, and I am truly honored to be recognized on that level.”

As a nationally recognized authority in mined land reclamation, NASLR advocates the use of research, innovative technologies and professional discourse to foster the restoration and land and water affected by coal and minerals mining activities.

The organization (http://naslr.org/) established the Dean Spindler Award to recognize exemplary work in the field. DMME’s Division of Mined Land Reclamation (DMLR) promotes environmentally sound coal mining through regulating surface effects, reclaiming abandoned mine lands, issuing permits, performing inspections, assisting small operators and responding to citizen concerns.

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