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UNLV Positioned to Support Research, Workforce Development in Drone Industry

Nevada designated by FAA as one of six regional sites for unmanned aerial vehicles development; UNLV to become training, research hub for industry.
Research  |  Jan 8, 2014  |  By Megan Downs
Media Contact: Megan Downs, Office of Media Relations (702) 895-0898
A drone made by UNLV engineering students Greg Friesmuth and Muhammad Umair Ayub takes off during a demonstration May 31, 2013. (Aaron Mayes / UNLV Photo Services)

UNLV has worked successfully with state education and research institutions and the governor's office to ensure Nevada was selected by the Federal Aviation Administration as one of six national sites for testing, research, and development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) - often known as drones.

UNLV was part of a large team of government, education and private-sector experts that that supported the creation of the state application. Other sites selected are located in Alaska, New York, North Dakota, Texas, and Virginia.

"UNLV is ready and excited to be a part of this journey," said Rama Venkat, interim dean of the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering. "I am confident that Nevada's economy will see a paradigm shift within the next decade due to the explosion of UAV-based technologies."

Bringing the UAV industry to Nevada could have a potential economic impact of $2.5 billion to $8 billion, and UNLV is poised to serve as a comprehensive research institution with expertise in all unmanned aerial system (UAS)-related areas. UNLV will provide an interdisciplinary team of scientists, engineers, and policy and legal experts to make this program a success.

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

For several years, the UNLV College of Engineering has been active in the area of unmanned aerial systems through federally funded research projects and industry collaboration. UNLV faculty are actively researching sensors, communications, controls, secure data transfer in addition to privacy and societal concerns associated with brining UAVs to civilian life.

The college also is developing a minor in UAS, with plans to launch in fall 2014. The program will consist of key engineering and computer science courses related to UAS technologies, a privacy and legal issues course, and UAS pilot training courses.

UNLV's mission is to develop a Center for Excellence in UAS, which will work closely with the office of economic development to help incubate potential new start-ups in UAS related areas, serve as a consultant for UAS companies and become a resource for federal, state and local agencies with regard to polices, procedures and regulations.

"Being selected as one of six sites for UAV development in the country is a historic moment for Nevada," Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a press release. "With the climate and air space of Nevada, we are uniquely equipped to help expand the development of UAVs. We have also partnered with private industry and academia to establish the curriculum necessary to create the UAS civilian workforce of the future in Nevada. Our state has been preparing for this selection and we are ready to enter this new era of aviation history."