RENO, NV - Governor Sandoval says it's a "major win for Nevada." The FAA announcing Monday that our state has been chosen as one of six test sights for unmanned aerial vehicles or drones.
These FAA test sights aim to decide how drones will be regulated in the future. The actual test phase only runs through 2015, but this decision ensures drones are here to stay and they could be the next big industry in Nevada.
The announcement comes with a sigh of relief from the Governor's Office of Economic Development.
"It's an explicit recognition by the FAA of our assets to support the industry," said Tom Wilczek with the Governors Office of Economic Development.
Luckily, so much of what Nevada has to offer is already in place. That's good because the test site has to be operational within 180 days.
"As soon as we are up and running and we are operational, you are going to start seeing those companies come," said Wilczek.
One such company is already here. Reno-based Drone America had its operations grounded last year by the FAA; Monday's announcement means it will be flying again soon.
"I think we have been selected by the state of Nevada to assist in testing some of the procedures and operations at the actual test site," Mike Richards says.
Early in the application process there was concern that testing would be limited to southern Nevada, but officials now say the Stead airport will play a major role.
"We have a 5-thousand-acre former Air Force base that is already used for research and development. This is the next logical step for us to develop new technology as well as new guidelines and technology for UAVs in our society," said Brian Kulpin with the airport authority.
The test site only lasts about 2 years but expect Nevada's drone industry to be around much longer.
"Research, Innovation, implementation of innovation are things that the university can and should respond to," said Manos Maragakis.
UNR College of Engineering Dean Maragakis says the school is already developing curriculum to support the industry.
"I believe that this state, just because of what happened today, and just because of the infrastructure that our university has put together, is going to be much different 10 years from now," said Maragakis.
There are two sites in northern Nevada, Fallon and Stead, and three sites in southern Nevada, Creech, Nellis and Area 51.