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Nevada panel OKs $1.25 million for drone testing

CARSON CITY — Nevada’s fledgling drone testing industry received a $1.25 million boost in state funding from a legislative panel on Wednesday.

The Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee approved allocating $1.25 million from a $4 million fund set aside in the 2013 session to help the state develop the testing of the aerial technology.

The allocation to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development will help the agency move forward with drone testing by private-sector companies as it moves toward self-sufficiency, said Steve Hill, executive director of the agency.

Nevada was named late last year as a national testing site for the new technology, known formally as unmanned aerial vehicles. Five companies have come into Nevada and tested so far, he told lawmakers.

The funding request was approved just one day after an announcement that Ashima Devices, a Pasadena, Calif.-based company known for its research in advanced autonomous aerial vehicles, will be moving its headquarters and opening a research, testing and assembly facility in Reno. The relocation is expected to bring up to 400 jobs to the area.

Ashima Chief Executive Officer Mark Richardson, a former Cal-Tech professor who also currently serves as a co-investigator on the Mars Science Laboratory Rover program, said: “We’re excited to be opening this new facility in Reno and in working with the University of Nevada collaboratively on upcoming projects that will help students hone their skills in conjunction with Ashima Devices and better prepare them for their entry into occupational fields focused on advanced robotics systems and control, computing sensing and communication systems and in the burgeoning field of UAV’s.”

Six electrically powered jet engines, encased in the small aircraft’s fuselage, propel Ashima’s drones that are said to look like something between a Frisbee and a hockey puck. Ashima Devices will complete testing and begin selling ground-penetrating radar systems that will fly on its drones in 2015.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801.

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