Panel backs $1.25M for drone research in Nevada

CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada lawmakers are kicking in $1.25 million to help get the state’s fledgling drone testing industry off the ground.

The Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee voted to allocate the funds from a $4 million reserve set aside last year to help the state develop the testing of the aerial technology.

The allocation to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development will help the agency move forward with drone testing by private-sector companies, said Steve Hill, executive director of the agency.

Nevada was selected by federal officials late last year as a national testing site for the new technology, known formally as unmanned aerial vehicles. Five companies have come in and tested so far, Hill told lawmakers on Wednesday, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal (

The funding request was approved a day after the California-based Ashima Devices announced plans to move its headquarters and open a drone research, testing and assembly facility in Reno. The relocation is expected to bring up to 400 jobs to the area by 2018 with an average salary of $70,000.

Ashima CEO Mark Richardson, a former Cal-Tech professor, also serves as a co-investigator on the Mars Science Laboratory Rover program.

“We’re excited to be opening this new facility in Reno and in working with the University of Nevada collaboratively on upcoming projects that will help students hone their skills in conjunction with Ashima Devices and better prepare them for their entry into occupational fields focused on advanced robotics systems and control, computing sensing and communication systems and in the burgeoning field of UAVs,” he said.

Six electrically powered jet engines, encased in the small aircraft’s fuselage, propel Ashima’s round drones called “Hexpucks.” About the size of a manhole cover, they look like something between at Frisbee and a hockey puck.

Ashima Devices will complete testing and begin selling ground-penetrating radar systems that will fly on its drones in 2015. They’ll be made mostly for law enforcement, fire and rescue.

Drones are “one of the next big things in aviation, and frankly, in the world,” Gov. Brian Sandoval said at a Tuesday press conference at Reno-Stead Airport. Also on hand to introduce Ashima to Reno were officials from the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada.

The company has committed to collaborating with the University of Nevada, Reno on programs to prepare students for occupations in the UAV field, according to EDAWN.

“A lot of graduates from UNR and a lot of graduates from the community college system are going to find their way to Ashima,” Larry Lambert, a company vice president, told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

“We want to build that community so a lot of your sons and daughters stay here and work here instead of going off to some other place.”


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