FAA Chooses Nevada for Drone Development - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

FAA Chooses Nevada for Drone Development

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Today (Monday), the Federal Aviation Administration announced that Nevada has been selected as one of 6 locations to be a test site…for drones.

For such small objects, they pack a huge financial punch. How much money are we talking about for Nevada? Governor Sandoval says…a lot. As he told us, "They will bring thousands of jobs to our state, and we estimate that the average wage for those jobs will be $62,000. It could mean 2 point 5 billion...that's with a B...in economic impact."

The Reno-Stead Airport could soon be a beehive of drone-buzzing activity. Standing in front of the newly-finished terminal building, spokesman Brian Kulpin told us, "It is an exciting day for us. It can mean big things for the future for us, and we need this type of shot in the arm for our community."

25 states were clamoring for this winged jackpot…only 6 were chosen. How did Nevada win one of those coveted spots? Among the drone's pre-flight check, space is a "go" here. As the governor put it, "We have some very unique assets. We have more airspace than the other 49 states combined."

There's plenty of ground space too out at Stead, where the airport backs up to BLM land. But aerospace specialist Tom Wilczek with the Governor's Office of Economic Development says the ace in our hand was our weather: "The clarity, the ability to have 320-plus flying days a year is extremely important to the FAA."

The payoff looks huge. Commercializing drones, from tracking wildfires to checking land for mining and agriculture, will be a hot, high-paying, high-education industry. Manufacturer Hawkeye UAV demonstrated their drones at Reno-Stead Airport earlier this year. Where manufacturers like they go, other makers and vendors will follow. On the phone, Steve Hill, the director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development told us, "We'll have companies moving in and out of the state to do testing for periods of time."

Back out at Reno-Stead Airport, Brian Kulpin is ready: "We're going to market this for economic development. We have a brand new terminal here, we have the 5,000 acres here...lots of room for development up here in Stead."

It won't take long. Besides Stead, the state has chosen Fallon Naval Air Station for drone technology testing, along with 2 southern Nevada spots authorized as "test sites for commercial unmanned aerial vehicle development." The state should start to see some real activity in those spots next year.

The research and testing that's performed in Nevada will help the FAA develop their national standards for drone operating, licensing and privacy issues, which they expect to issue by late-2015.

-written by John Potter

"This is wonderful news for Nevada that creates a huge opportunity for our economy," said Senator Harry Reid. "Nevada has long been a leader in the UAS Industry, and no state makes a better candidate than ours. With this application approval, Nevada will continue to lead in new and innovative technologies of the 21st century, along with creating a large and profitable industry. I appreciate the work of all those involved and I look forward to working with Governor Sandoval to ensure a successful implementation of the award, and subsequent creation of the testing sites in Nevada."

In 2012, Senator Reid led passage of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, establishing the Federal Aviation Administration program to begin testing for the integration of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles--commonly referred to as drones--into the National Airspace System. Awarding Nevada the FAA test sites will have far reaching implications on the economy of Nevada.  The range of jobs created includes, but is not limited to: teachers, machinists, aircraft mechanics, software developers, electrical engineers, and human resource professionals.

"The FAA designation of Nevada as a UAS Test Site is an incredible step forward for the State of Nevada," said Steve Hill, Director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development.  "It allows us to establish a leadership role and be at the forefront of a new and important future industry.  The job creation and economic impact will be significant - growing during the testing phase and expanding as Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) becomes a commercial industry.  We look forward to working with the FAA and other Test Sites to develop an industry that is safe and secure while creating good jobs and providing the benefits that stem from commercial applications.  I want to thank everyone who directly worked to make this a reality, and I also want to thank elected officials and communities throughout Nevada for their unwavering support."

"Being selected as one of six sites for UAV development in the country is a historic moment for Nevada," Governor Brian Sandoval said. "With the climate and air space of Nevada, we are uniquely equipped to help expand the development of UAVs. We have also partnered with private industry and academia to establish the curriculum necessary to create the UAS civilian workforce of the future in Nevada. Our state has been preparing for this selection and we are ready to enter this new era of aviation history. I thank Senator Reid for his tireless work on this issue and the opportunity to work together on this momentous day for our state."

"The Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority is honored to help develop the next generation of aviation technology, and policies that will respect privacy concerns, while bringing jobs and economic benefit to our entire region," Marily Mora, President/CEO of the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority, said. "We look forward to working with the Governor's Office of Economic Development, the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, the University of Nevada, Desert Research Institute and the private sector to develop Reno-Stead and Northern Nevada into a UAS research and development

U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) today responded to the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) announcement that Nevada has been designated as an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) test site with the following statement:

"Considering that Nevada continues to lead the nation in unemployment, the FAA's decision is both welcome and well-timed. Nevada has long been a leader in UAS development and testing. Given our state's geographic location, extremely qualified workforce, and strong partnerships with universities, Nevada is well-positioned to ensure the success of these programs.

"I am confident that the FAA, Congress, and the State of Nevada can strike a balance between this opportunity and the development of privacy standards and safeguards that will guarantee the constitutional rights of Nevadans and Americans across the country," said Senator Dean Heller.

"The decision by the FAA to select the State of Nevada as a test site to begin work on safely integrating unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace aligns perfectly with plans and projects underway at the University of Nevada, Reno," Kam Leang of the University of Nevada, Reno mechanical engineering department said.

The University has more than a dozen faculty across several departments and colleges, including engineering, business, geological sciences, cooperative extension and environmental sciences, who will contribute to the research, design, implementation and commercialization of advanced autonomous systems.

"We have been developing research and educational infrastructure to support the FAA designation of Nevada as an unmanned autonomous flight location," University of Nevada, Reno President Marc Johnson said. "This designation has been an objective of the Governor's Office of Economic Development for some time and the University is working in concert with government and industry to support advanced manufacturing and diversify the Nevada economy."

The University is establishing an innovation center for advanced autonomous systems with the goal of creating unique industry-university partnerships to commercialize technologies in autonomous systems. This includes land-based, aerial and stationary robotic systems such as industrial robots, advanced manufacturing systems, driverless road vehicles and underwater robots.

"The vision for this initiative is to partner with the private sector to support innovation for advanced autonomous and manufacturing systems," Manos Maragakis, dean of the College of Engineering, said. "This is a collaboration between our colleges and with the business community that will stimulate economic development."

A new minor degree program in Unmanned Autonomous Systems begins in January. Courses in computer science, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering are being combined into the new UAS engineering program that will spearhead the effort for the interdisciplinary center for advanced autonomous systems.

"The opportunities this program brings to student education and competitiveness are exciting," Maragakis said. "This program will be instrumental in enhancing the state's ability to increase its workforce in an area that has been strategically identified as one of its economic development priorities."

The new course of study further builds collaborations between engineering departments and several colleges.

"I commend the University faculty members from diverse academic programs who collectively are providing exciting new educational and research experiences that will translate directly into wonderful career opportunities," Kevin Carman, provost and executive vice president, said.

The College of Engineering will add three new faculty positions, one each for mechanical engineering, chemical and materials engineering, and computer science and engineering. They will focus on advanced manufacturing, robotics and autonomous systems.

"We have outstanding faculty dedicated to science and research," Mridul Gautam, vice president of research and innovation, said. "This will enhance our collaborations with industry in developing innovative solutions using cutting edge technology."

In the area of industry collaborations, the University is partnering with Nevada Nanotech Systems to develop a low-cost, robotic flying vehicle that can be used for environmental monitoring and communications in remote, rural settings. The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension has a collaboration with Drone America, a Reno-based unmanned-aircraft company with aircraft that could be used as tools for natural resource and environmental science research.

"This is a transformative event for the state of Nevada, the knowledge-based economy of the state, and the University of Nevada, Reno," Mridul Gautam, vice president of research and innovation, said. "We are very well qualified to provide the UAS industry, the state and the nation with world-class expertise in all areas of research and development related to UAS. The potential growth in innovation at all levels – high school to graduate school, and beyond – is unimaginable."

"This is wonderful news for Nevada that creates a huge opportunity for our economy," U.S. Sen. Harry Reid said of the designation. "Nevada has long been a leader in the UAS industry, and no state makes a better candidate than ours. With this application approval, Nevada will continue to lead in new and innovative technologies of the 21st century, along with creating a large and profitable industry. I appreciate the work of all those involved and I look forward to working with Governor Sandoval to ensure a successful implementation of the award, and subsequent creation of the testing sites in Nevada."

(The University of Nevada contributed to this report.)

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