Nevada is pushing its way to the forefront of the drone industry, as Gov. Brian Sandoval announced a $400,000 deal with NASA.
Gov. Sandoval and Frank Aguilera, deputy director of the Aerospace Systems Program at the NASA Ames Research Center in California, announced plans for a research facility called the Nevada Unmanned, Autonomous, and NextGen Collaborative Environment (NUANCE) lab, at Reno-Stead Airport.
Nevada has been involved with drone development since 2013, when the state was designated as one of six official testing locations for commercial drone applications. The testing sites have been a hot topic in recent Congressional proposals for 2016 FAA Reauthorization, where the FAA has been tasked with publicizing the sites to broaden their scope and use by the industry and other government agencies. The Nevada site has been used by a variety of drone companies; including drone delivery company Flirtey who performed the first urban drone delivery in the US in Nevada last month.
Nevada’s new lab will help NASA and the FAA to develop the drone air traffic control system that is critical for the success of drone delivery and other widespread commercial drone applications. NASA will work with researchers from the University of Nevada, Reno, to create simulated drone situations that will allow them to test real world scenarios without using actual drones. Researchers will use the lab to test the results of interactions between drones and manned aircraft, which could provide valuable information to the industry and significantly effect future regulations. They will also simulate situations when large fleets of drones interact, such as situations where they might converge upon a landing site at the same time.
The plan is complex. The Nevada team will fly live drones at the Live Virtual Constructive Center at the Stead Airport. Data on drone performance will be collected and sent to the NASA Ames Research Center in California, where it will be processed to inform tests in a simulated environment.
The new project will begin at the end of this month, after what the Governor says was two years of work to get the deal in place.
“It’s a great day for our state, unmanned systems and the aviation industries,” Sandoval said during the announcement of the project. “This is an epic moment. It is a giant leap for our state.”
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
Subscribe to DroneLife here.