Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering

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Nevada Designated as Test Site for UAVs; UNLV Positioned to Support Research and Workforce Development

Posted: January 6, 2014

Students showcase their UAV at the Spring 2013 Senior Design Competition

Nevada has been selected as one of six sites around the U.S. for testing, research, and development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), carrying a potential economic impact of $2.5 to $8 billion.

The five other selected sites include the states of Alaska, New York, North Dakota, Texas, and Virginia.

UNLV was part of a large team that supported the state application, along with government, education, and private sector entities. With the selection of Nevada as one of the six sites concentrating on UAS and operator standards, operations, and certification requirements, UNLV is poised to explore multiple research areas including sensors, communications, controls, secure data transfer in addition to privacy and societal concerns associated with brining UAVs to civilian life. The College of Engineering has already been active in the area of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) through federally-funded R&D projects and industry collaboration, and the development of a minor curriculum in UAS. 

College of Engineering Interim Dean Rama Venkat said, “This announcement is a ticket to an exciting journey of technology based on economic diversification. UNLV is ready and excited to be a part of it. I am confident that Nevada’s economy will see a paradigm shift within the next decade, due to the explosion of UAV-based technologies.”

“We have been working with the Governors Office of Economic Development to support the FAA designation, and see tremendous potential for partnering with industry in the development of the UAS industry,” Interim Vice President for Research and Economic Development Thomas Piechota said.

The application to the FAA had strong support from the entire congressional delegation. U.S. Senator Harry Reid said the state is now poised to “basically control the West” when it comes to attracting clients for UAV research and development.

U.S. Representative Dina Titus, D-Nev., said Nevada “is a perfect fit,” as the state where advanced aircraft such as the U-2 spy plane have been developed, and where the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones are operated from Creech Air Force Base.