The Drone Industry:

A Northern Nevada Economic Hot Spot


By Leah Wagner,

Corporate Relations Manager

We’ve all heard about that battery factory, but a multi billion-dollar high tech industry is flying under the radar into Northern Nevada.

The drone industry is predicted to generate over $90 billion dollars in the next decade, and Northern Nevada is poised to be a major stakeholder.

From “Nevada’s Mission to Build the Detroit of Drones”

By Satta Sarmah, in Fast Company October 30, 2014

“We want to develop a new reputation for Nevada of being the Silicon Valley for autonomous systems,” said Warren Rapp, business director for the Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center. The goal is to suck up the biggest share of the global drone market that will swell to an estimated $90 billion in the next decade.

Experts say the state is focused on building an industry for drone testing, for drone manufacturing and the development of other autonomous systems, such as Google’s self-driving cars, which were tested in Nevada. Mike Kazmierski, president & CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, said that the drone industry . . . could have a huge impact in the north.

“Manufacturing is one of our sweet spots,” Kazmierski said. “As we look at the long-term growth of the UAV industry, we see that as a growing segment of our economy.”

On December 30, 2013, the FAA selected Nevada as one of only six test sites for UAV’s (drones).


See the FAA press release:


“Nevada has been on the leading edge of aerospace flight testing for almost 70 years,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Today, the state continues that tradition by contributing to the safe and efficient integration of unmanned aircraft into the U.S. aviation system.”


Nevada wields profuse natural endowments in geology and geography, substantial infrastructure assets and the most lenient tax and regulatory structure in the nation. These advantages to which no other state can compare entice the drone industry here.



The Governor’s Office of Economic Development


The Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems



Nevada’s Geological and Geographical Drone Advantage:


Nevada’s vast unpopulated areas and climate provide the best and most available air and space corridors:


  • 31,500 Square miles of Restricted Air Space – more than all other states combined


  • Diverse testing climates with 320 + days of clear weather and optimum flying conditions


Vast Infrastructure Assets and Test Sites:


Test sites:


Creech Air force Base

Nellis Air Force Base

Fallon Naval Air Station

Fallon Municipal Airport

Nevada National Security Site – Desert Rock Airport

Reno-Stead Airport


Nevada Research Institutions in Partnership with the UAV Industry:


Desert Research Institute


Located in Northern Nevada, Desert Research Institute partners with government, private industry and academic institutions to conduct UAV research.





“With aerospace projects, there can be a lot of behind-the-scenes research that’s essential to their success — which makes having DRI in this backyard a big asset.”


  • Mark Robinson , “Aerospace Industries expected to be Key Force in Northern Nevada’s Future” RGJ, March 1 ,2014



From DRI’s website:


“Recognizing the importance of assessing horizontal spatial heterogeneity and acquiring timely synoptic coverage of ecosystem processes, DRI faculty and students have been actively developing modern UAV platforms with several partner institutions. Examples of these efforts include the design, fabrication and deployment of sensors and sensor packages, real-time and post data collection analytics and data visualization utilizing DRI’s state-of-the-art, six-sided Virtual Reality Enclosure.”


University of Nevada Reno (UNR)


The University of Nevada is home to the Nevada Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center (NAASIC). UNR is one of the few schools in the nation with a drone minor degree program offered through the College of Engineering.


from NAASIC’s website:


NAASIC, or the Nevada Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center, was established in 2014 with $3 million in funding from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development Knowledge Fund. NAASIC is dedicated to partnering with industry to commercialize technologies in autonomous systems, including:

  • Stationary robotic systems •Advanced manufacturing systems
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles •Driverless cars   •Underwater robots

Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC)

TMCC will be providing courses in UAV’s beginning fall 2015, and is in the process of developing an associate’s degree in UAV flight operations.

“Students who complete TMCC’s one-year certificate program for Unmanned Aerial Systems Technicians will study UAV history and ethics, along with robotics and information technology. They’ll also get their hands on some of the technology being developed right now by the company Drone America, based in Reno.”


Unparalleled Business Friendly and Regulatory Advantage for the Drone Industry


Larry Lambert, VP and Co-Founder of Ashima Devices discusses the extraordinary advantage of doing business in Nevada:


From: “Rebirth: Is Reno at a drone tipping point?”, by Mark Robison RGJ 9-1-2014


“In the end, Ashima came here because Reno sold itself and Nevada wasn’t California.

“We were looking for really everything Reno offered,” Lambert said.

“First of all, Reno’s friendly, Nevada’s friendly; they actually want us here. California could care less, while Reno opened up the door. There’s not one part of this town or this business environment that I’ve found the slightest bit negative; it’s all 100 percent.”

The Reno-Stead Airport provided space for Ashima to do tests.

“That’s huge,” Lambert said. “Could you imagine that any airport in California would give us free of charge — and allow us to set up our outfit on — a square kilometer of the prime UAV testing facility in the state? No, never, no.”

Even the press conference last week with Sandoval celebrating the Ashima news went smoothly

“In California, it would’ve been $200,000 and 40 lawyers and six months,” Lambert said about pulling off the announcement. “We just sat down with (the governor’s staff) and the Stead people and worked it out in about an hour — what does the FAA need, what do we need, what does the governor’s office want. EDAWN was there. And we worked it out. So instead of having a large bureaucratic war that spans months, we just worked it out with a couple water bottles and a morning.”

UAV Companies Selecting Northern Nevada for their Corporate Headquarters

Northern Nevada is home to giants in the UAV industry.

Drone America

Headquartered in Reno, Nevada Drone America manufactures a diverse range of autonomous vehicles and systems, both aerial and terrain based with a wide range of industrial, governmental, and humanitarian applications.

Drone America’s flight services department provides civil and scientific customers with the ability to collect data where manned aircraft missions would be too expensive or too dangerous.  Unmanned aerial systems have unlimited potential, as new uses continue to be discovered. Some applications Drone America’s customers have used their systems for include:

Agricultural applications, including “GPS Precision Arial Prescription Application”, aka a high tech modern version of crop dusting

Remote package delivery

Natural Resource Protection, including Forestry Protection, Oceanic Monitoring and Protection, Wildlife Monitoring and anti-poaching protection

Environmental applications including pollution assessment via thermal and multi spectrum mapping, coastline and floodplain mapping, and cloud seeding for rain and snow pack

Industry and Infrastructure applications such as mining sites, electric and telephone line inspection, pipeline and windmill inspection

Military, Law Enforcement and First Responder applications such as search and rescue, fire suppression, HAZMAT response, border patrol for homeland security, port and waterway protection, DEA illicit drug transport detection and interdiction, crime scene analysis, imaging and incident recording

Ashima Devices

From: “Rebirth: Is Reno at a drone tipping point?”, by Mark Robison RGJ 9-1-2014

“Ashima will move its headquarters from near the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena to Reno. It is expected to hire 50 to 60 area residents soon, eventually ramping up to about 400 after two years if all goes well.

The devices have the potential to generate big business for Ashima but also new work for nearby suppliers, researchers and parts manufacturers.

While it has a transitional office for engineers in downtown Reno, Lambert said, Ashima is prepping to build a drone factory in Stead.

“Getting a company that size in this new (drone) market is pretty incredible,” said Becky Morton, a longtime member of the American Society for Photogrammetry & Remote Sensing and chairwoman of a drone-focused conference the group will host in October in Reno.

“It could attract other firms that manufacture similar things or sensors or add-on products that can be complementary,” Morton said. Reno, she said, could become the Silicon Valley of drone technologies.


See: “Drone Startup Flirtey Partners with The University of Nevada, Reno To Push UAV Delivery Forward” by Jason Lim, Forbes 9-8-2014

Flirtey, a Sydney and Nevada based start-up is aiming to be one of the world’s first UAV delivery companies.  The company conducted a world-first drone delivery test back in October 2013 and to date has conducted over a hundred successful test deliveries of textbooks, with its partner Zookal.

Flirtey has struck a partnership with The University of Nevada, Reno, a leading research center for Unmanned Autonomous Systems (UAS). In exchange for equity, the University is providing access to its R&D labs for design, manufacture and research collaboration plus its indoor flight-testing facilities and supply graduate students to work with the company.

Flirtey is pioneering UAV delivery to make receiving packages as simple and as easy as possible, where customers no longer have to wait at home all hours for a delivery, or stand in line at the post office to pick up parcels. Flirtey’s vision is to provide drone delivery as a service, with its fleet of drones making autonomous deliveries directly to your location. Initially, Flirtey drones will trial deliveries over sparsely populated areas and within line of sight for deliveries that customers want within thirty minutes. Although Amazon has begun lobbying the Federal Aviation Administration to speed up its approval of the usage of drones for commercial usage, it will likely be a few more years until it really happens. Being in Nevada, Flirtey is well positioned when it does.”




















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