The State of Nevada has received approval from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) through an official ‘Certificate of Authorization’ (COA) to begin the testing of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) at a Nevada FAA UAS Test Site, and the first flight will take place this summer.

Unmanned aerial systems have been used overseas by the U.S. military for more than a decade but will soon be a standard tool for many civilian applications — including police surveillance, fire mapping, border security, real estate photography, and surveying structures after natural disasters.

uas drone

“Today marks a historic day in Nevada’s next chapter and the future of commercial aviation in our state,” said Governor Brian Sandoval. “For decades, Nevada has been a hidden asset for the military in developing and flying Unmanned Aerial Systems, and this COA provides our state with the opportunity to use this knowledge to help lead in the development of a civil UAS industry.  Nevada will use its Test Sites to work with the FAA to develop the policies and safety requirements that are imperative to establishing a thriving civil UAS industry.  A lot of work has gone into the process thus far, but there is much more to do, and the State of Nevada will work with the five other Test Site locations to move a commercial UAS industry forward.”

“Nevada’s FAA Test Sites are officially open for business,” said Steve Hill, Director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.  “In the months since Nevada was selected as one of six Test Site locations, we have focused our efforts on strengthening Nevada’s testing structure. The authorization to fly is an exciting next step in the process to commercially integrate unmanned systems. I look forward to Nevada’s continued leadership in this emerging industry.”

"There is really a shift happening in the market, from the military side to the civil side, with future growth on the commercial side of the industry," says Gretchen West, Executive Vice President of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). The association has about 7,000 individual members and about 600 corporate members, most of whom are involved in the unmanned aircraft industry.

The first Nevada FAA UAS Test Site flight is scheduled for this summer at Desert Rock Airport, a private airport which is owned and operated by the Department of Energy and not for general use. The COA authorizes the use of a UAV for a first responder exercise in which the UAV will be “eyes on scene” during a mock emergency exercise. Nevada was announced as one of the six FAA-designated Test Sites for UAS in December 2013, and is the third state to receive a FAA’s COA authorizing the UAS flight under their UAS Test Site program. The FAA has been required by Congress to begin the commercial-integration of smaller UAS applications by September 2015 and testing at the sites is expected to carry through 2017.

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