By now many of you may have heard that the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) has selected Nevada as one of six testing areas for unmanned aerial systems (“UAS”). The local press referred to these aircraft as “drones,” but this is much more than that.
I’m sure you are asking yourself how this whole thing got started in the first place. Several years ago, Congress directed the FAA to integrate unmanned aerial systems into the national civilian airspace. Part of that directive was for the FAA to select up to six test sites to work on procedures, policies and training of the UAS by December 31, 2013, and to have commercial drone operating and licensing standards in place by September 2015.
In Nevada, there are three test range sites Fallon, the Nevada Test Site, and Boulder City. Each area has its own unique environments such as high altitude training opportunities in Fallon, and wide open spaces at the Nevada Test Site. Boulder City was included for pilot training, ground testing and integration into the airspace system by using the wide open spaces of the Eldorado Valley.
Very valid concerns have been raised will the drones be allowed to fly over our houses? The simple answer is “no.” While manned aircraft can fly over residential areas provided they are 1,000 feet above the ground, drones are not legally allowed to do so.
So, what does this mean for Boulder? The operations as a whole should have very little impact to the community as the drones would operate from the airport or even be directly launched for testing in the Eldorado Valley open areas. UAS businesses may locate training facilities at the airport or our existing business park, providing good paying jobs to local qualified residents. It could also mean an air traffic control tower which would further limit (and ensure penalties) any aircraft from overflying the community. The City also stands to benefit financially through land leases, and payments for flight testing over the desert.
As time passes, more information will be available. I encourage you to visit either the official city website at bcnv.org, or the airport website at flybouldercity.com.
Visit Roger at http://www.bcnv.org/CityCouncil/Tobler.asp.