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Educators, drone manufacturers come together to discuss future

Leading manufacturers of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, met with Nevada educators in Las Vegas last week to discuss the future of the industry, which potentially will have a presence in Boulder City.

The day long Titans of Industry workshop, held June 26 at the JW Marriot Las Vegas, was hosted by the Nevada economic development office and the Nevada System of Higher Education.

Guests included representatives from drone manufacturers Boeing and Lockheed Martin, as well as companies that manufacture related technologies.

“The fact that these guys are here is really huge,” said Jonathan Daniels, technical director of the Nevada Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program management office, which, under direction of the economic development office, is working to build the drone industry in Nevada.

Nevada educators, including representatives from the aerospace engineering program at Rancho High School in Las Vegas, University of Nevada, Las Vegas and University of Nevada, Reno, spoke to industry leaders on what their programs could offer in terms of workforce development.

Nevada educational institutions are aiming to create drone-related programs, because a potential Federal Aviation Administration decision would make Nevada attractive for the commercial industry. Some institutions already have such programs.

Nevada is well-positioned to provide drone education because of military outposts exist here, development office aerospace and defense industry representative Tom Wilczek stated in a news release.

“Because Nevada does this for a living at Creech and Nellis (Air Force bases), we would be able to offer academic instruction in a real world setting,” he said. “I don’t know of many other programs that can do that. We are looking to graduate students who already have flight hours.”

Last year the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 was passed by Congress, requiring the FAA to integrate non-military drones into the national airspace by September 2015.

Experts say there are many civil uses for drones, such as environmental research and wildfire monitoring, but their use in the national airspace is prevented by the FAA.

The development office is leading a statewide effort for Nevada to be one of six national areas selected as a test site for the five-year integration process.

If Nevada’s application is selected, which experts say is likely, Boulder City will be one of the state’s three test sites.

The FAA has to make a selection by the end of the year, Daniels said, but whether Nevada is selected may be revealed in the next few months.

It is unknown exactly what Nevada’s selection would mean for the state and for Boulder City, but an influx of industry is likely, said Daniels.

Lockheed Martin, which already has 80 people at Creech Air Force Base, would not likely set up a permanent location in Boulder City, said Larry Pellett, the company’s advanced development programs director.

However, there has been interest from other companies that may want to locate to Boulder City, possibly even setting up manufacturing facilities, Daniels said.

Fifty-five acres are available at Boulder City Airport, according to Airport Manager Kerry Ahearn.

In 2010, voters approved an advisory question giving the city permission to sell 30 acres north of Boulder City Airport for commercial development.

Daniels also said the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program management office is interested in seeing a drone program at Boulder City High School, similar to one Rancho is planning .

However, he said, there have been no formal discussions with the Clark County School District .

In April, city staff and the management office hosted a poorly attended public meeting to discuss Boulder City’s role as a test site, which Daniels said would involve drones being operated in Eldorado Valley and the airport.

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