Reno attracts new drone technology and innovation

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) The City of Reno along with the company Flirtey have been chosen by the U.S. Department of Transportation and just one of ten locations across the nation to spearhead new drone technology.

"This means that Flirtey has the opportunity to make the city of Reno the biggest little city in the world for drone delivery," Matthew Sweeny, CEO and founder of Flirtey, says.

Sweeny says his company was the first in America to get FAA approval for drone delivery.

"We're now uniquely placed with safe technology and a safe track record to conduct safe deliveries to peoples' homes," he says.

Iris Automation's Mark Genung says Reno's assets are part of what make it such a good location.

"First and foremost we have great weather and there's lots of space without having to operate in without having to interact with other airports and other airplanes," Genung says.

And the technology is spreading to classrooms, as well. The program at Truckee Meadows Community College came after a proclamation from Governor Brian Sandoval.

"When it was emerged that the state of the Nevada became one of the FAA test sites, it was big news for us, so the governor basically said, 'thou shalt teach drones', and here we are teaching them," Mark Sharp, TMCC unmanned aerial systems instructor, says.

The new technology does not come without its own set of challenges. Sharp says learning how to use drones safely is a top priority.

"We do share airspace with manned aircraft, and that's our prime concern, is to make sure that we're out of the way and that we don't have the possibility of creating injury on the ground," Sharp says.

Iris Automation's machine vision technology helps detect other aircraft, determine if a risk exists and then uses autopilot to avoid the collision.

"The output of the camera goes directly to the computer, so the computer is picking up those pixels and making sense of the world and when it recognizes a sense of pixels that are associated with an aircraft it analyzes to asses whether or not a risk of collision exists," Genung says.