The Mineral County Commissioners met on Wednesday, Dec. 2 to discuss the use of the Hawthorne airport for drone testing the flying of drones in the valley surrounding Hawthorne.
Commissioner Cliff Cichowlaz put the item on the agenda explaining that there was not enough time to get this item onto the Mineral County Airport agenda.
Ltc. Col. Gregory Gibbons explained that his office had been contacted by the governor’s office of economic development about flying unmanned aircraft system’s (UAS’s) in the area.
“We contacted the governor’s economic development team and they were interested doing this (UAS’s) and they came back with a proposal. They have a company that is trying to develop Nevada into a UAS, UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) testing zone,” the lieutenant colonel told the commissioners.
Gibbons explained that there have been a change in policy regarding the flying of these unmanned devices and it is now on the property owner to give permission to allow these companies to fly within certain heights and perimeters.
In speaking with Shelley Hartmann, Mineral County Economic Development Director, who was not present at the meeting, it’s an effort for both the base and the community of Hawthorne to boost economic development.
Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) and Nevada Advanced Autonomous System Innovation Center (NAASI) are working with other companies within the drone industry and will be making their way to Hawthorne on Dec. 10 and 11 to fly.
Gibbons asked if the commissioners would give permission to allow these companies to fly within the airspace of the Hawthorne Airport on the two days so that the companies can see what opportunities our area has to offer.
“I recommend that we be as open as we can to all of these companies to hopefully have further faith,” Gibbons said while addressing those at the commissioner’s meeting.
The NIAS and NAASI team has designated Dec. 10 and 11 as Hawthorne Advanced Drone Multiplex.
Craig Jacobs with Hawthorne Army Depot addressed the commissioners regarding safety and insurance during the Hawthorne event. Jacobs explained the insurance policies as well as Cichowlaz, who stated that drones are regarded as aircrafts.
Jacobs explained that there is talk of opening a “corridor” from Reno-Tahoe Airport to at least Hawthorne Airport
Commissioner Cichowlaz stated that he believes it is a great idea.
“There needs to be some control on these drones,” stated Ben Miller of Walker Lake.
“We are running background checks,” said Jacobs. He also discussed other safety options put in place by Federal Aviation Association, Hawthorne Army Depot, Hawthorne Airport and the companies involved.
Discussion ensued regarding drones.
Gibbons stated that he would only work with companies that come through the governor’s economic development team. Random companies will not be entertained to just come forward and fly, at this time.
The commissioners voted to allow the two-day event at the Hawthorne Airport in conjunction with Hawthorne Army Depot.
To learn more about flying drones in FAA airspace, you can log onto www.faa.gov and search drones.