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Nevada among 6 sites OK'd for drone testing sites

Reported by: Kelsey Thomas
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Updated: 12/31/2013 5:55 am
LAS VEGAS (KSNV – Nevada has been chosen as one of six drone testing sites around the country.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced this morning that Nevada will be a center for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle development.

Economic forecasts show there could be thousands of jobs for drone development employees with an average annual wage of about $62,000, an estimated $2.5 billion in economic impact and approximately $125 million in annual state and local tax revenue.

“This is wonderful news for Nevada that creates a huge opportunity for our economy,” Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement. “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.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval said the announcement is a historic moment for the state.

“With the climate and air space of Nevada, we are uniquely equipped to help expand the development of UAVs,” Sandoval said in a statement. “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."

Nevada submitted its application to the FAA in May. The application included the state as the direct applicant, and a 28-member team including the Nevada System of Higher Education, the Nevada National Guard, Bowhead Systems, Navigator Development and Drone America. Team members, who represented a cross-section of public and private partners, industry and academic leaders, within the northern and southern regions of the state, identified three test ranges and four test sites in the application.

The unmanned aircraft systems, commonly known as drones, have been used mainly by the military. The testing sites will help the FAA develop guidelines for commercial, domestic uses for the aircraft by 2015.

The 2013 Legislature set aside $4 million for the economic development office to assist in drone test site development efforts.
Nevada’s advantages, cited by advocates, include the state’s large amount of airspace for drone testing and its climate that allows for flying year round.

Unmanned aerial vehicle operations are now based at Nevada’s Creech Air Force Base at Indian Springs. The state’s two public universities are also moving forward with minor degrees in drone operations.

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