While work is underway to develop the state’s first urban drone testing site, a grant Nevada State College received last month has created a foundation for teachers and students to elevate their learning of unmanned aerial systems.
“The intent is to bring other teachers to NSC to show them how to introduce to their own campus, the teaching of the use of drones,” said Dr. Andy Kuniyuki, dean of the college’s School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “It will then encourage students to say, ‘I want to be a part of this. I want to go into some STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, math) discipline to participate more fully.’”
The Henderson Unmanned Vehicle Range is being developed on the college’s property in partnership with the city of Henderson, the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
Now under construction, the site will feature a 150-foot runway, a vertical takeoff, landing pads and an observation tower.
“The location of the urban test site is ideal for the UAS industry,” Barbra Coffee, director of economic development and tourism for Henderson, said during a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday. “It’s close to a major urban center — the Las Vegas Strip — and provides support that this growing industry sector needs.”
Experts from the Institute for Autonomous Systems will provide Federal Aviation Administration regulatory guidance and UAS flight support and coordination for companies conducting testing, development and training.
“These test sites are designed to answer key research questions to guide the growth of this industry well into the future,” Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen said.
Project partners also recognize the educational opportunities afforded by the site.
“We’re also excited about the partnership with Nevada State College, which opens up opportunities that are unique to develop a future curriculum for them around UAS and the development of applications to better prepare us as a city to become a true leader in this industry sector,” Hafen said.
The $24,000 grant the college received will prepare 30 teachers in the Clark County School District, who will have an estimated impact on more than 1,000 students, to develop and implement STEM curriculum through expert training and hands-on experiences with drones.
“We know we need to get more students to say, ‘I want to go into the STEM fields,’” Kuniyuki said. “You can’t just say we have a deficiency — sign up. Students aren’t going to do that just because you tell them that. But you get them to be engaged in something like this that starts off being fun.”
In 2013, the FAA selected Nevada as one of six designated UAS test site operators. The FAA created the test sites to encourage the integration of drones into air traffic systems. The Institute for Autonomous Systems is responsible for management of the FAA-designated Nevada UAS test site.