Much drone testing in Nevada shrouded in privacy

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John Locher/ AP

Dan Johnson of Sensurion Aerospace brings the Sensurion Aerospace Magpie business drone throughout an occasion Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, near Boulder City. The occasion was to announce the FAA’s first issuance of an unmanned aerial systems test site special airworthiness certification.

Friday, Aug. 14, 2015|1:48 p.m.

It’s been more than a year considering that the Federal Aviation Administration designated the state of Nevada as a drone test website. Since then, the state has mainly been peaceful about what the websites are being utilized for.

One reason for the relative quiet: confidentiality agreements.

Much of the research going on at the test websites at about 35 places throughout the state is proprietary, said Tom Wilczek, who works closely with the test websites as the aerospace industry specialist in the Governor’s Office of Economic Advancement.

“They are aiming to get a competitive edge,” he said.

The state has signed non-disclosure agreements with numerous companies that have actually used the websites. Those utilizing the websites include private companies, universities and public companies.

“The research study is applications based,” Wilczek said. “How can the innovation be used in the real-world environment?”

Those applications might consist of industrial drone use in engineering projects, drought mitigation, agriculture and wildfire mitigation.

With the designation as a test site last June, Nevada became one of 6 congressionally-mandated locations for research as the FAA establishes guidelines for integration of business drones into nationwide airspace. In its original application, the state designated 4 places as websites: Fallon Municipal Airport, Nevada National Security Site/Desert Rock Airport, Reno-Stead Airport and Boulder City Municipal Airport. However, test website now consist of places throughout the state, most of which are airstrips.

While universities and companies that work on the website are under no responsibility to send their data back to the FAA, they do have the choice to share their research study data with the federal company.

Over the next few months, the test site is anticipated to see a spurt of activity. Drone America, a Reno-based business that creates platforms for unmanned aerial cars, plans to start utilizing the test site in the fall.

“We have been gearing up to do deal with the test site,” stated Mike Richards, its CEO.

In addition to UNR and the Desert Research Institute, UNLV has also performed research at the test sites. University officials stated UNLV engineers have actually examined drone battery life as well as chartering a flying orchestra drone to supply live aerial entertainment.

UNR prepares to use a test site in Northern Nevada, taking a look at aerodynamics. Warren Rapp, company development director for UNR’s Nevada Advanced Autonomous Systems Development Center, stated there are several research areas distinct to drones that are worth additional research study, including flight controls, the responsiveness and flight variety.

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