Potential Drone Uses Discussed

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RENO, NV--By the end of the year we will know if Nevada will be an innovator in unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones. The F.A.A. is trying to find test sites for the commercial use of unmanned aircraft, and Nevada is on the shortlist.

That is exciting for people looking to jump into a business that has some serious potential to make them rich. 140 billion dollars a year is what the unmanned aircraft industry is expected to generate once it gets off the ground.

Across the state Monday, dozens gathered to discuss what needs to be done to make drones happen in Nevada.

"That grouping of companies and category of business is going to be worth 140 billion. If we, in Nevada, can just tap into 10% of that, that's a big victory," said Don Vetter, one of dozens who attended a statewide workshop on the implementation of commercial drones Monday.

So fingers are crossed that we will know in the next 10 weeks whether or not we made the final 6.

Vetter is interested in drones for the purposes of flyovers for mining companies; the potential uses range from firefighting, to public safety, or even aerial coverage of news by your local TV station.

"There is a whole range really of civilian applications outside military applications that really have yet to fully be developed and understood," said Fredrick Stienmann with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

Nevada is poised to be ahead of the curve in capturing the economic impact of drones, Monday's conference is evidence of that.

"It's really kinda an opportunity for the public sector and the private sector to really interact with each other during this workshop as a way of understanding how the industry is developing," said Stienmann.

Amongst the ranks of attendees was Tom Wilczek with the Governors Office of Economic Development.

"The industry is already here. It exists and it is very robust," said Wilczek.

Department of Defense contractors already producing drone technology in Nevada and will likely venture into the private market.

"Nevada is situated to basically attract and be able to be a major player in that particular type industry," said Wilczek.

State leaders are convinced that Nevada will be chosen as one of the F.A.A. drone test sites. If it is not chosen, they still plan to move forward with creating and promoting the unmanned aircraft industry.