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Newly Opened Drone Center of Excellence in Las Vegas, NV Offers Public Workshops on Drone Safety

BY Isabella Lee
26 September 2018

The Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) recently launched the Nevada Drone Center of Excellence for Public Safety (NDCOE) as a facility for drone research and education. The NDCOE staff will focus on mitigating the risk caused by drone incursions into the commercial air traffic space.

NIAS launces Nevada Drone Center of ExcellenceSource: NAIS

Nevada is Ranked #2 in UAS

The recent Business Facilities’ 14th Annual Rankings: State Rankings Report survey ranked Nevada second (behind first place New York) among all US states and territories for Drone Leaders.

The state rankings report considered research and other development activities. Nevada’s position is viewed as well-deserved based on the advanced contributions from the Nevada state government and NIAS, including the recent launch of the Drone Center of Excellence. Additionally, Nevada is the only statewide test site for the FAA national effort to improve drone safety and establish an operational framework for commercial drone services.

Nevada, through the NIAS, played a significant role in the pioneering use of drones and is well positioned, thanks to several international cooperative agreements, to continue the integration of this technology into our airspace, economy, and daily lives.

—Brian Sandoval, Governor of Nevada

Drone Incursions on the Rise in Nevada

Over the last decade, UAS, more commonly referred to as drones, have experienced an unprecedented boom within aviation. Coinciding with the increase in popularity, incidents involving drones in tourist areas, as well as risks to larger manned aircraft are on the rise and present high-liability risks to property owners.

In February 2018, a YouTube video went viral showing a drone illegally flying above a landing passenger jet at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada. The FAA stated that they were aware of the incident and investigating.

Data from the FAA also raises concern about drones in unauthorized airspace. From January to June 2018, there were 31 reports of unauthorized UAS sightings from pilots, citizens, and law enforcement in Nevada alone. Operating drones around airplanes, helicopters, and airports is dangerous and illegal.

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and NIAS conducted a statewide survey, in which almost 80% of respondents were concerned about a recreational drone hitting an airline and causing an airline disaster and almost 90% were concerned about aerial drones illegally penetrating FAA airspace without authorization at outdoor events such as sport stadiums, concerts, or at large public gathering events. The results of this survey and the increase in unauthorized drone sightings solidified the public’s support for NIAS to launch the NDCOE, the first center of its kind in the U.S. The NDCOE hopes to educate the public on responsible drone use.

NDCOE Aims to Decrease Drone Incursions with Public Education

The NDCOE’s mission is to save lives and reduce air hazards from drone incursions by empowering a shared safety vision. They’ve partnered with federal agencies like the FAA and private-sector businesses like Switch to accomplish this mission, but most importantly they are involving the public as well.

NDCOE will provide safety incursion research data, drone technology best practices, and educational materials to promote and protect the public’s safety and privacy. This information sharing and education will occur primarily through public workshops. NDCOE hopes to conduct these workshops in an open and ethical manner that will inspire the public to join the NIAS public safety movement.

We are taking an aggressive approach toward solving the complex UAS Industry challenge of mitigating drone incursions into the National Airspace System (NAS)—one of the toughest FAA challenges today. What we are doing in Nevada will be of immense value to the DOT, FAA, DHS, DOJ, commercial airlines, visitor venues, and the UAS Industry.

—Dr. Chris Walach, Senior Director, NIAS and the FAA-designated Nevada UAS Test Site

Safe and successful UAS operations rely on quality training, end user education, and maximizing public safety processes. To protect and educate residents and visitors, this center seeks to protect against drone users who pose a public safety hazard due to inexperience and/or malicious drone operations—for example, drones hitting people or that have the potential to cause an airline disaster, and who violate your safety and/or privacy. The NDCOE also strives to inform the public of Nevada drone laws near high traffic public places, at airports, near military bases, and critical infrastructure.

In this video Dr. Chris Walach, Senior Director, NIAS discusses the purpose and goals of NDCOE.

NDCOE will also advance Drone Surveillance, Detect, and Avoid (remote sensing), wildland firefighting, gas-leak detection, and time-sensitive medical delivery technologies for life-saving medical equipment and organs. To learn more about the NDCOE, visit the NIAS website. You can also join our community discussion about the center on our forum for drone pilots.

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