NCET explores Northern Nevada’s innovative technologies.
By Dave Archer
But today, a multitude of specialized aircraft takes flight – everything from single-engine private aircraft to supersonic fighters to giant cargo planes that link the world’s businesses with overnight delivery.
And manufacturers specialize in everything from high-technology fasteners that hold aircraft together to the assembly of entire passenger planes.
The unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry is developing the same diversity. But where the aircraft industry measured its development in decades, the UAS sector becomes more diverse every month.
Nevadans, particularly those of us in northern Nevada, get a front-row seat on the creation of an industry that some have called the most significant transportation breakthrough since the jet engine.
Nevada is one of six locations approved by the federal government of testing of UASs. UNR, meanwhile, has worked with the state’s economic development agencies to create the Nevada Advanced Autonomous System Innovation Center to help the UAS business get off the ground.
Here are just a few of the companies at work in our state:
- Skyworks Aerial Systems, a Las Vegas company, creates drones for indoor applications such as moving packages around warehouses. The company’s first system can carry a 1.5-pound payload for a mile, using radar-like technology to avoid obstacles. It’s only 20 inches wide, which allows it to fit through doors, and it’s nimble enough to land on a chair. Skyworks now is working to increase the payload of its UASs.
- Nevada Dynamics, a Reno startup launched by UNR students, is developing an easily programmable navigation system that works with any UAS. The company won the $50,000 first-place prize in UNR’s Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition for its development of a battery-charging technology that extends the range of small drones used in package delivery and similar applications. The students want to develop products that serve the drone industry in the same way that shovels served the Gold Rush in California — tools that everyone needs.
- Flirtey develops delivery drones for e-commerce, small business and emergency medicine. UNR took an equity stake in the company, which is using the university’s labs, collaborating on research with UNR faculty and accessing indoor facilities for testing. Flirtey successfully tested fully automated drone delivery of textbooks last year.
The growing number of small entrepreneurial companies in the UAS sector combine with a few large players in the defense sector, and the researchers on campuses in the state to create an exciting ferment of new concepts and products.
Not all of the young companies will survive in the highly competitive field. But the community’s support will create an environment in which the best of them will thrive.
Learn more about business opportunities in Nevada’s new unmanned aircraft systems sector at NCET’s special luncheon on Thursday, June 18, 2015 at the Atlantis. You can find more information and register for the event at NCET.org.
Dave Archer is President/CEO of NCET, which produces events to help individuals and businesses explore and use technology. This column first appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal – RGJ.com