By David Davis, VEGASINC
In a small garage in downtown Las Vegas, two entrepreneurs from a tiny Canadian startup are working on what some believe will be the next major industry in Nevada: drones.
The startup, Fluttrbox, run by Aristo Mohit-Coker and Nadia Shiwdin, wants to connect two of the disparate communities that are converging to grow the sector: large institutional clients who need the detailed data drones can collect and hobbyist drone operators who can collect it.
Drones, once regarded as only military weapons or hobbyists’ toys, appear poised to become mainstream in the United States and already have become big business in Nevada. Steve Hill, executive director the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, has estimated Nevada’s drone industry could have an economic impact of up to $8 billion annually.
Although drones are new to much of the United States, Nevada has been developing and using them for more than two decades. The Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems considers Nevada “the birthplace of the UAS industry.”
Nevada’s connection with drones can be traced to the 1990s, when the U.S. Air Force began flying Predator drones out of Indian Springs Air Force Base. Today, that base, renamed Creech, is one of the main locations from which Air Force pilots fly drones for military operations around the world.
Anti-drone protesters often demonstrate and occasionally are arrested at the base. But the drones have created jobs, both within the military and in supporting businesses such as Battlespace, which provides support services for military drones.
Drones’ nonmilitary uses also are well-suited to Nevada’s open spaces and sunny weather. The Desert Research Institute, for example, has used drones to collect data for scientific experiments for more than a decade.
Read the rest of David’s story at vegasinc.com.
Nevada drone timeline
■ 1990s: Air Force starts piloting Predator military drones from Indian Springs Air Force Base
■ 2004: Desert Research Institute starts using drones to collect data for scientific experiments
■ 2007: Battlespace Flight Services opens
■ 2011: Drone America opens
■ 2013: FAA selects Nevada as one of six national drone test sites
■ 2014: Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems established; UNR and UNLV start offering minor programs about drones; Nevada gets more drone companies, including Skyworks Aerial Systems, Ashima Devices, Flirtey and ArrowData
■ 2015: Nevada legislators introduce two drone-related bills; UNLV opens its Drones and Autonomous Systems Laboratory; the InterDrone conference will be in September at the Rio