Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval announced that he is proposing a budget amendment to appropriate $5 million in support of the state’s application to the FAA to be chosen as one of the six unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test sites where drones will be tested for integration into the National Airspace System (NAS).
The final date for submitting complete proposals to the FAA was May 6, 2013. Before that, 50 applicants from 37 states had filed initial responses expressing an interest in being chosen as one of the pilot sites.
One of these applications was submitted by a 28-member consortium from Nevada, led by the Nevada Economic Development Office as the applicant.
Included in this team are public, private and academic entities such as Navigator Development Group, Drone America, Bowhead Systems, the Nevada National Guard and the Nevada System of Higher Education.
The team is being led by Steve Hill, head of the Economic Development Office, and by Bill Burks, adjutant-general of the Nevada National Guard.
The $5 million the Governor is asking for would come partially from the state’s Catalyst Fund and the remaining from higher revenues expected over the next couple of years, as per forecasts by the Economic Forum . The money would be used to collect more data supporting Nevada’s application and convince the FAA of Nevada’s readiness to handle the project.
The project is estimated to have the potential to create 15,000 new jobs in the state. The Governor’s statement said that thousands of direct UAS employees would earn average annual wages of $62,000.
Being selected as a UAS test site by the FAA would mean an economic impact of $2.5 billion for Nevada, with estimated additional annual local and state tax revenues of $125 million.
Nevada has certain built-in advantages over other applicants, including the fact that the military already tests its drones in the state and this has created a well-trained talent pool of veterans who know how to operate drones and fulfill other job functions for UAS manufacturers and research companies.
Not to mention that Nevada contains the largest expanse of restricted airspace in the continental United States. The state’s proposal includes a plan for drone testing in contiguous restricted and commercial airspace, which makes it ideal as a pilot site for testing UAS-NAS integration.
The state is offering four sites where commercial drones can be located, including the Fallon Naval Air Station, Boulder City, Desert Rock and Stead.
Gov. Sandoval said that with the airspace and climate in Southern Nevada, the state was uniquely equipped to assist with the development of UAVs. He added that the economic benefits of being chosen as a test site were exponential, and that he believes the state would see a great return on this $5 million investment.