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Drone potential for Nevada still developing

John Barrette
jbarrette@nevadaappeal.com
Flirtey CEO Matthew Swenney and one of the company's prototype drones. Flirtey, one of several companies getting off the ground in Nevada, has granted an equity stake to UNR in exchange for the university providing access to its R&D labs for design, manufacture and research collaboration.
Courtesy Flirtey |

Drones weren’t a windfall for Nevada after the state was named a test sight, but it’s likely they still would be, a speaker in Carson City said in a recent talk.

Mike Dikum, an executive in the Reno-Tahoe airport community since 2001 and now Reno-Stead Airport manager since 2010, said when Nevada was named one of four unmanned aerial vehicles’ (UAV) testing sights, some thought “people would beat a path to our door.”

He told a Northern Nevada Development Authority (NNDA) breakfast meeting audience that didn’t happen exactly as some had anticipated. He said in part that’s because the Federal Aviation Authority is slow in the rule-making process but, meanwhile, Section 333 exemptions for UAV usage are being granted regularly in the nation.

“They’re not really proactive as much as they’re reactive,” he said of FAA officials. He said by Aug. 18 there had been 1,244 exemptions granted, some 400 of them in the month before that date.

However, Dikum told the NNDA crowd, things will come full circle and the state will be in good shape regarding prospects for burgeoning drone opportunities.

He said, for example, five-year agreements regarding cooperation and other aspects are being forged involving Nevada and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to piggyback on Nevada’s drone testing status.

He said drones aren’t new, as UAVs go back to World War II regarding military usage, but the current situation is still a bit like being in Orville’s and Wilbur’s garage, naming the Wright brothers who first flew more than a century ago.

“These are tremendous tools to help industry do their jobs,” Dikum said. “It is a wonderful tool in the right hands.”

He said, however, the technology is readily available and can be in the wrong hands if people use drones illegally and without knowing what risks exist. He said those won’t be the commercial users who want to protect their continued authorization to use UAVs to save time, money and promote other efficiencies.

He expressed confidence burgeoning interest in drones would prove profitable on many fronts, both in terms of economics and other factors, but added warning it won’t come overnight.

Dikum was joined by another speaker on the UAV phenomenon, as well as two appearances of others via video presentations. The other speaker was Patrick Teagarden, president of Alaska Aviation Proving Ground, Inc., who’s developing unmanned aerial imaging systems to help support tactical decision making.

An aviator for two decades, Teagarden has been a test pilot with two tours in Iraq, an electronic warfare intelligence analyst, a corporate pilot and an Alaskan bush pilot.

The speakers appearing by pre-done videos were Tim Spencer, Reno Fire Department division chief, and Jakub Jakubczyk, owner/founder of HD Air Studio in Poland. Spencer spoke on drone applications in public safety, Jakubczyk on stabilizing solutions for the UAV and cinematography market.