Updated January 14, 2019 - 7:27 pm
Nevada’s urban centers are about to see a lot more drone testing.
On Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Transportation selected Nevada as one of three test sites to participate in a pilot program that will integrate drones into the national airspace system.
Nevada’s unmanned aircraft system traffic management pilot program will focus on advanced airspace and sensor technology that will help bring drones to urban environments.
Through the program, Nevada will be able to shift from testing drones outside of city limits to inside a city’s airspace with drones flying beyond visual line of sight.
“This is going from the little league of within-visual-line-of-sight for drone operations to advanced protocols and concepts,” said Chris Walach, executive director of the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, a nonprofit that works under the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to promote the state’s drone industry. “That’s a big difference from just 2018.”
The program aims to develop enterprise services, such as drone use in ecommerce, first-response situations and smart cities.
“We’re going to be testing deliveries, surveillance-type operations, remote-sensing operations,” Walach said. “This will certainly contribute to … advancing the industry for package delivery and other operations that need to occur inside a city.”
The program will launch in Reno, with additional testing in Henderson or Laughlin.
“The state of Nevada is quickly becoming a focal point for the UAS industry,” said Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve in a statement from the GOED. “Last year the city of Reno was selected to participate in the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program, and now we are very honored to have the opportunity to partner with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems as they conduct testing that will help develop processes for safe integration of drones into the national airspace.”
Nevada was one of seven FAA-designated unmanned aircraft system test sites in the running. The FAA has not yet released the names of the other two sites chosen.
Partners include Nevada airspace developers such as Praxis Aerospace Concepts International and AviSight.
“Nevada’s key role in this endeavor is just one more example of what our state and communities have to offer in today’s most exciting, emerging technologies,” said Gov. Steve Sisolak in the GOED statement.
New drone regulations
Federal officials plan to ease restrictions on flying small drones over crowds and at night, which would give a boost to the commercial use of unmanned aircraft.
The Federal Aviation Administration outlined draft rules Monday that would let drone operators do those things without a special waiver from current rules.
For example, waivers for night flights would no longer be needed for operators who go through special training and put anti-collision lighting on their drones.
It’s not clear how long it might be before the FAA’s easing goes into effect. The FAA said it won’t take final action until it finishes another regulation regarding remote identification of small drones, which analysts say could be years away.
The agency is also working on a process to let owners of national-security sites, amusements parks and other places petition the FAA for a ban on drones near their properties.
— The Associated Press