Establishing a drone airport and training center in Boulder City came one step closer to fruition during the City Council’s meeting Sept. 9 as it approved a memorandum of understanding to create the facility.
City Manager David Fraser was joined by AeroDrome CEO Landon Taylor and Boulder City resident John Daniels at the meeting, where the three detailed a vision for a 50-acre drone facility at the old Boulder City motocross track, near the intersection of U.S. Highway 95 and the future Interstate 11.
Taylor said the project would be “the first of it’s kind in the nation,” featuring a 1,000-by-50 foot runway, about a fifth of the Boulder City Municipal Airport’s 4,800-foot runway’s length and two-thirds of its 75-foot length.
The for-profit facility would partner with local universities, career colleges and high schools, Taylor said, aiming at “high-potential, low-resource” students with a goal of bringing more future professionals to STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math.
The AeroDrome CEO, who also operates drone centers in Detroit and Los Angeles, said he hopes to bring 11,000 students to the four industries by 2020.
“We want to build a sustainable middle class in America,” Taylor said. “Our view as the best way to do that is empower high-potential students.”
In an informal interview on Monday afternoon, Daniels, who is AeroDrome’s president, said the idea came also from a desire to make Boulder City the state’s main drone testing site for unmanned aircraft systems.
In 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration included the state of Nevada among six national test sites for UASs, Daniels said. But unlike the other five test sites, which include specific locations such as the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi, Nevada does not have a central testing site.
With a little more than a year before the test sites are ended in 2016, Daniels said Boulder City’s old motocross lot is the Silver State’s best location for a “Drone-port.”
“With McCarran and Nellis up in Las Vegas, you can’t fly anywhere unless you’re northeast in the desert,” Daniels said.
The drone airport will offer hands-on teaching for students, offering a 13-week training program that includes working with trained UAS professionals.
Once students have completed the FAA-certified program, they’ll be qualified for entry-level positions with the growing UAS divisions of major aviation and technology companies, like Boeing and USRobotics.
“I look at it like, if we only have 16 months, let’s do something here that has long reaching, first-of-its-kind capabilities,” Daniels said. “There’s no reason we can’t capitalize on that.”
Contact Chris Kudialis at email@example.com or 702-383-0283. Find him on Twitter:@kudialisrj.