It has the potential of being Nevada’s next gold rush, but the problem is that there doesn’t seem to be much rush to it.
And, for that matter, not much gold.
The state’s fledgling unmanned aerial vehicle industry is taking baby steps in development, a somewhat surprising turn considering how enthusiastic state leaders were when the Federal Aviation Administration named Nevada one of six test sites for unmanned aerial vehicles — “UAVs” in industry parlance and “drones” to most of the public — in late 2013.
Nevada was eager to get its piece of what the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International forecast as an $82.1 billion industry by 2025. Local experts say the industry could have an $8 billion economic impact on Nevada.
Tens of thousands of high-paying high-tech jobs are expected as the industry grows, and Nevada figured to be one of the leading beneficiaries since it is the acknowledged birthplace of the industry in the United States, thanks to the military’s presence in the state.
Nevada has more drone pilots and tech experts per capita than any state in the country.
The FAA’s selection of Nevada as a test site was a no-brainer. It was the only applicant with a state sponsor, and state leaders used the state’s geographic and climatic diversity as a key piece of its application. There are four designated test sites in the state, with Boulder City Municipal Airport the closest one to the Las Vegas Valley.
The state established the Nevada Institute of Autonomous Systems within the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, which lists aerospace and defense as one of the growth sectors the state is best equipped to use to diversify its economy.
The Nevada Institute sought experts to set up the program and hired Bowhead Systems and Technology Group as its contracted program management office.
With the resources of UAV fliers and tech support experts at Creech and Nellis air force bases and Naval Air Station Fallon readily available, Bowhead got out of the gates quickly.
It implemented programs, explored new ideas and worked closely with the FAA toward the ultimate goal of integrating UAVs into the national airspace.
Within a year of being named a test site, Nevada’s drone experts were pressing to get things done faster than the FAA could manage.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com