By Jason Hidalgo, RGJ
A long percolating joint venture between the University of Nevada, Reno and NASA officially took off on Wednesday with the unveiling of a new drone and virtual reality laboratory at Reno-Stead Airport.
The Nevada Unmanned Aircraft and NextGen Collaborative Environment Laboratory or NUANCE Lab houses UNR research on airspace management as well as a link to NASA’s airspace simulation system. The facility, which is located at the Reno-Stead Airport Freedom Flight Terminal, also features an adjacent workshop for building unmanned aerial systems — more commonly known as drones.
“We’ve been working to lure the top international companies to our state and these efforts put Nevada on the ground floor of the next big thing in aviation,” said Gov. Brian Sandoval. “NASA helped define the unlimited boundaries of American ingenuity … and now Nevada is proud to be part of its plan … in the world of advanced aviation.”
The NUANCE Lab is part of efforts by Nevada to develop its budding unmanned aerial systems and vehicles sector after the state was selected by the Federal Aviation Administration on December 2013 as one of six congressionally mandated UAS test sites in the country. The FAA approved Nevada testing operations on June 19, 2014.
The FAA designation played a key role in the state acquiring a long-term contract with NASA last summer for the NUANCE Lab. Testing will be a big part of the facility’s mission, which includes observing unmanned aerial systems in good and bad weather conditions as well as simultaneous monitoring via NASA software of multiple UAS flying at the same time across various testing sites.
The autonomous capabilities being developed in NUANCE Lab program will have wide-ranging applications for NASA, said Frank Aguilera deputy director of the Aerospace Systems Program at NASA’s Ames Research Center.
“For us, it’s very important to take this technology forward not just in the drone world but also the space program,” Aguilera said.
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