RENO — Drones are coming to downtown Reno.
The University of Nevada, Reno will set up its drone research headquarters just south of the main casino district in a newly leased office building that is part of the school’s new push to better connect the campus with the city.
The Nevada Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center will take up an entire floor of the 25,000-square-foot building, said Heidi Gansert, UNR’s executive director of external affairs.
Gansert said that while UNR offers a new minor degree program in unmanned autonomous systems, classes likely won’t be held in the new building. But the research center will offer internships and employ UNR graduate students to partner on projects with the private sector, she said, and the program has money set aside to hire four engineers.
“We want to know what the private sector needs, and we can help develop those in a variety of ways,” Gansert told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “The idea really is for the innovation center to be able to commercialize something.”
In December, Nevada was selected as one of six states to house drone testing sites.
Also moving into the building after renovations are completed in early summer will be a student welcome center, business counseling services and Nevada Industry Excellence, a statewide organization designed to help partner and expand small manufacturing and mining companies.
University and downtown leaders are stepping up efforts to better connect their two communities that have distinct cultures but are separated by less than a mile.
Both are seeking to promote that unity as a way for Reno to improve its image to help attract tourists and for UNR to accomplish the enrollment growth its officials say is needed to succeed in the future.
“We are a university town, and we’ve never recognized it,” Reno Councilwoman Sharon Zadra said at a brain-storming session in February.
The drone headquarters will be in the midtown area that’s seen significant growth in recent years, with secondhand stores, restaurants and bars.
“We really want to connect to the city,” Gansert said. “We’re really bringing the university downtown, right to the edge of midtown.”
Funding for the drone research center comes from a $10 million grant from the state’s Knowledge Fund, which is designed to spur innovation and research within the state.