By Bailey Schulz/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Take a glance around Chris Walach’s office, and you’ll pick up hints of his past.
His desk inside the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems office — bare aside from his computer, his phone and a few sticky notes — speaks to his military background: organized and efficient. Documents stacked to the side are addressed to Dr. Chris Walach, showing how far he has come since dropping out of high school.
In just six years, Nevada’s drone industry has gone from nonexistent to the second most robust in the country. Walach, senior director of the NIAS, is one of the driving forces behind the industry’s growth.
At the end of 2013, Nevada was named one of six Federal Aviation Administration drone test sites in the country and the only one to encompass an entire state. Now it’s home to a center of excellence that promotes public safety in the airspace and has partnered with international companies to advance autonomous systems.
Both of those programs are managed by the NIAS, which also oversees the operations of Nevada’s drone test site.
“There’s definitely been a significant amount of growth” in Nevada’s drone industry, said Gerald Van Hoy, a private consultant for the robotics and drone industries. “Now you’re seeing more commercial applications than you were before. … I’d say that (Nevada is) definitely (a leader) because of the fact that the state has been intelligent about its approach to the drone industry.”
Walach said he leads the NIAS’ focus on using small businesses, research and development and technology demonstrations to advance the local drone industry.
When the Governor’s Office of Economic Development approached Walach about working for the NIAS three years ago, he was immediately interested. He would be able to draw not only on his aviation experience from the Army, but on the problem-solving skills he learned while getting his doctorate.
As senior director, Walach’s role is to collaborate with research institutions, build relationships with companies and attract drone-related businesses to Nevada.
“It was another challenge,” he said.
Read the rest of the story at reviewjournal.com.