Nevada Climbs into Second Highest Rating for Drone-friendly States

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Image courtesy of NIAS

It’s a safe bet that Nevada will continue to innovate in the drone space in the years to come. The Silver State has been  ranked as the second best place for drone business, according to Business Facilities’ 15th Annual Rankings: State Rankings Report.

“This ranking does not come without an industry and community recognizing that Nevada has the operational goods and vision to lead,” said Chris Walach, Executive Director of Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems.

“As the state’s designated agency to manage Nevada’s FAA UAS Test Site, NIAS is proud to position Nevada as the global leader in Autonomous Systems deployment and is honored for the state to be ranked in one of two top ranking positions in unmanned aerial systems for a second consecutive year,” said Walach. Virginia took the number-one spot this year.

Currently, Nevada operates or hosts three national-level programs – the NASA UAS Traffic Management Technical Capability Level 4, FAA UTM Pilot Program and the DOT UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP).

“Nevada is also the only state-wide UAS Test Site for the FAA national effort to improve drone safety and integrate these aircraft into the National Airspace System,” Walach said.

The NIAS hit the jackpot in September after NASA selected the organization and the Nevada UAS Test Site to participate in a joint study to determine the appropriateness of external ranges to conduct NASA’s Urban Aerial Mobility Grand Challenge Series. The UAM series will demonstrate an airspace system architecture based on NASA’s UTM paradigm.

“This statewide UAS testing advantage is partly what enabled Nevada to lead NASA TCL 4 by testing NASA’s airspace platform for the FAA in the downtown urban environment of Reno,” Walach said.

“The Reno Urban Air Mobility hub represents a significant milestone and first in the advancement of beyond-visual-line-of-sight and urban air mobility technology innovations.

Nevada Milestones

  • In 2017, a research team recorded the longest unmanned, BVLOS flight in Nevada history at the time. Led by the Desert Research Institute flight operations group, the Drone America Savant drone reached an altitude of 1,500 feet and completed a one-hour BVLOS flight covering a total distance of 28 nautical miles.
  • That same year,  Microsoft partnered with NIAS and the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) to test the software giant’s AI-guided navigation array in a 16.5-foot, 12.5-pound sailplane.
  • Drone firm Delair America has also conducted a series of test flights at the Nevada Test Site in Reno.
  • British drone RelmaTech is taking part in a NASA Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management (UTM) program in Nevada to test drone deployment over urban areas.


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