Officials highlighting planned Nevada drone testing facility
HENDERSON — State and city officials took a step Wednesday to boost a fledgling unmanned aerial vehicle testing industry, marking the start of work on a drone test site adjacent to a state college campus in Henderson.
When the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems and the city of Henderson complete development, the 6-acre site near Nevada State College will have a 150-foot runway, four vertical landing pads, an observation tower, a flight operations control center and a netted drone area, officials said.
It’s being dubbed the Henderson Unmanned Vehicle Range, and will be used by commercial entities and organizations, and sometimes the Defense Department, to test small drones that weigh less than 55 pounds, institute official Mark Barker told the Las Vegas Sun.
The institute is a nonprofit corporation created by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development after Nevada was chosen by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2013 as one of six states to develop drone test sites. The other states are Alaska, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia.
The Henderson testing site will be the fourth in Nevada. Others are at airports in Fallon, Mercury and Stead, near Reno — and at a 50-acre desert site in nearby Boulder City dubbed by developers as the Eldorado Droneport.
In an event separate from the Henderson groundbreaking, Eldorado Droneport officials planned on Wednesday to bus visitors 30 miles from the CES gadget show in Las Vegas to their facility for what they were calling a Drone Rodeo.
Development chief executive Landon Taylor said the site plans to add leasable hangar, warehouse and office space, along with build-to-suit unmanned aerial vehicle pads.
In Henderson, the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems plans to provide FAA regulatory guidance and drone flight support.
The FAA in June announced new aviation rules giving commercial operators of drones under 55 pounds the ability to fly devices without special permits for everything from real estate appraisals, farm surveys and power line inspections to home deliveries of goods and aerial photography.
Operators have to register drones online, pass an aviation knowledge exam at an FAA-approved testing center, keep drones within sight at all times and not fly over people or higher than 400 feet.