Airport Could Be Base for Drones
January 7, 2014
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  • The City of Yerington has been contacted about possible participation by the Yerington Municipal Airport as a launch base for the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV, commonly known as drone) program, Yerington City Manager Dan Newell said last month.

    He said a representative in charge of the Governor’s Economic Development initiative had contacted him via email about whether the city would be interested in the Yerington Airport being a launch base for the UAV program.

    Newell indicated he replied that the city would definitely be interested in that participation, but he reported Monday that he hadn’t heard further from the state.

    Since that time, Nevada was selected as one of six sites to be a UAV development center, Gov. Brian Sandoval and U.S. senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller announced last week.

    The FAA made the initial announcement on Dec. 30 of Nevada’s selection as one of the six locations to be a center for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle development in the United States and outdoor testing of unmanned autonomous systems (UAS). Nevada applied to the FAA for this designation in May 2013.

    Officials have said as a UAV development site, the most likely economic forecast shows there could be thousands of jobs for UAS employees with an average wage of approximately $62,000, officials announced.

    This could mean an estimated $2.5 billion in economic impact in present dollars and an estimated $125 million in annual state and local tax revenue.

    “Being selected as one of six sites for UAV development in the country is a historic moment for Nevada,” Sandoval said. “With the climate and air space in 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.”

    “This is wonderful news for Nevada that creates a huge opportunity for our economy,” Reid said. “Nevada has long been a leader in the UAS industry, and no state makes a better candidate than ours.”

    “Considering that Nevada continues to lead the nation in unemployment, the FAA’s decision is both welcome and well-timed,” Heller said.

    The University of Nevada, Reno will be involved in research and industry collaboration in this project.

    “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 UNR mechanical engineering department said.

    A minor degree program in unmanned autonomous systems begins in January, with courses in computer science, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering.

    Steve Hill, director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said of the announcement, “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.”