State proceeding with drone program |

State proceeding with drone program

Special to the NNBW
Officials and interested partners gather for a demonstration by NIAS partnered with first responders at the Henderson Unmanned Vehicle Range. The event demonstrated in front of attendees of the Commercial UAV Expo how drones can be used during emergencies.
Courtesy Diversify Nevada |

The State of Nevada has announced it completed the first step for applying to participate in the Federal Aviation Administration’s Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Integration Pilot Program.

By filing a notice of intent, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development will serve as Nevada’s lead applicant for the program, which was developed as an opportunity for state, local and tribal governments to partner with private sector entities, such as UAS operators or manufacturers, to prepare proposals for more advanced UAS operations, such as beyond visual line-of-sight or UAS operations over people. The competition to participate in the FAA program is fierce, with more than 200 notices of intent submitted and only five spots guaranteed.

“Our state has become a world leader in advancing what is possible with unmanned aircraft systems and that is why we are excited and confident this opportunity to continue working with the FAA will help accelerate the integration of the technology into our airspace, economy and daily lives for the betterment of all Nevadans,” said Gov. Brian Sandoval in a news release last week.

According to the FAA, the program is expected to provide immediate opportunities for new and expanded commercial UAS operations, foster a meaningful dialogue on the balance between local and national interests related to UAS integration, and deliver actionable data to the Department of Transportation on expanded and universal integration of UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS).

“Building on the momentum of securing the FAA UAS Test Site designation in 2013 and pioneering some of the most innovative uses of drones anywhere, Nevada is up for the challenge to develop and submit a cutting-edge proposal for this new initiative, which we hope will continue to boost this growing industry in Nevada” said incoming GOED Executive Director Paul Anderson. “We are earnestly working to identify key UAS industry partners, from Nevada-grown companies to Fortune 50 corporations, in a collaborative effort to make the Silver State stand out from a crowded field in what is shaping up to be a hotly contested bid process.”

Starting in 2012, Nevada sought and won an FAA designation as one of six UAS test sites established to assist with the integration of UAS into the NAS. In July of 2013, GOED entered into a grant agreement with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, a non-profit corporation created to provide oversight of the testing. Since that time, NIAS participated in a number of history-making demonstrations, including the longest-ever drone package delivery, flying a fixed-wing UAV more than 97 miles to Austin, Texas, using cellular connectivity.

“Our four years of experience as an official FAA-designated UAS test site has paid significant dividends for us,” said GOED Aerospace and Defense Industry Representative Tom Wilczek. “Many of the same corporate teammates we partnered with in cutting edge UAV tests reached out to us and asked to join this current proposal team. The know-how, both in terms of technical capabilities and subject matter expertise, is unparalleled.”

Because the proposal is regulated under federal procurement guidelines, the composition of Nevada’s public and private team can neither be finalized nor disclosed at this time, according to Chris Walach, senior director at NIAS.

“With only five awards guaranteed, we can’t reveal our recipe for the secret sauce, but it is an honor to work with the team taking shape, and our shared goal is to submit such a compelling application to the FAA and we see it as a no-brainer for this team taking shape to continue their work with us,” said Walach.

Nov. 28 was the deadline to submit a notice of intent, with Dec. 13 of this year and Jan. 4, 2018, looming as deadlines to complete the next phases of the application process.