The Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) was established in 2013 as one of the six original FAA-designated Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Test Sites. Unique for the Test Sites was that Nevada was the only State given such designation. NIAS is organized under and is the program manager for the State of Nevada-Governor’s Office of Economic Development. The charter is to assist the FAA with integration of UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS). The mission of NIAS is to coach, teach, and mentor public and commercial UAS companies, as well as their staff to develop advanced and innovative UAS applications, procedures, techniques, and technologies to facilitate safe integration into the NAS as mandated by Congress. NIAS has the unique mission to plan and execute UAS flights in collaboration with Nevada teammates, collect FAA flight performance data, and develop enhanced National Airspace safety control measures. NIAS recommends unmanned aviation lessons learned to the FAA and NASA.

NIAS has successfully conducted multiple FAA and NASA sponsored test events including both the UTM Pilot Program (UPP), Grand Challenge, and the Technical Capability Level (TCL) events. These programs focus on NAS integration concerns like Beyond-Visual-Line-of-Sight and night UAS operations, downtown-urban canyon environments, package delivery, UAS Traffic Management (UTM), and Advanced Urban Mobility (formerly Urban Air Mobility), as well as the integration of NAS infrastructure for UAS Service Suppliers. In addition to NASA and the FAA, NIAS works with original equipment manufactures (OEMs) and other industry partners to define, build and test various UAS components, systems and subsystems. This testing leads to FAA regulations, training standards, recognized industry best practices such as recognized American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards and the development of device or system reliability standards known as mean time between failures (MTBF).

NIAS collaborates with Nevada youth programs like Jobs for Nevada’s Graduates on a Workforce Development initiative. This program prepares for and pays for underserved youth to obtain their FAA Part 107 Remote Operator’s License (Drone Pilot). This program, while centered on drone piloting, intends to develop interest in the industry as a whole. Flying a drone is the front end of what is an expansive and diverse industry. Non-piloting skills include sensors and sensor integration, data collection and management, report writing and development, flight and mission planning, and machine-learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). In addition, the program introduces the concept of Resiliency Training and workforce skills like dress and appearance, resumes and interviewing.

Submitted by: Blair Smith

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