Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Cultivating a New Industry in Nevada

Seeking to benefit from the anticipated, widespread commercial use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) nationwide, Nevadans have been working diligently to cultivate an industry around this type of aircraft.

Nevada is one of six states designated as FAA UAS test sites, or places for research and development and creation of technological strategies for integrating UAS into the NAS. The Silver State has nearly 40 centers where testing can occur. They include the four originals—Reno Stead Airport, Fallon Municipal Airport, Boulder City Municipal Airport and the Desert Rock Airstrip.

PACI is a Partner of the State of Nevada Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site

“Even if we only see 10 percent or are only able to capture 10 percent of that market, that’s $9 billion,” said Tom Wilczek, the defense and aerospace industry representative at the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED). “We absolutely see a value added in terms of developing a cluster in Nevada specific to UAV development. It’s a new chapter in Nevada.”

Read the full article from Nevada Business Magazine at this link here

Notice of Public Meetings for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Sites and Center of Excellence

The FAA will support seven public meetings during August and September, 2015. These meetings will be hosted by the six unmanned aircraft system (UAS) Test Sites and UAS Center of Excellence (COE). The purpose of these meetings is to discuss innovation and opportunities at the Test Sites and COE. PACI was awarded the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) contract to support this meeting on July 27, 2015.

On December 30, 2013, the FAA selected six UAS Test Sites. This selection was Congressionally-mandated by section 332 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Pub. L. 112-95). The FAA is working closely with the Test Sites to guide research programs toward specific goals such as System Safety & Data Gathering, Aircraft Certification, Command & Control Link Issues, Control Station Layout & Certification, Ground & Airborne Sense & Avoid, and Environmental Impacts that will help the FAA safely integrate UAS into the national airspace system.

PACI is a partner of the State of Nevada UAS Test Site

On May 8, 2015, the FAA selected a Mississippi State University team as the FAA’s Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (COE UAS). The COE will focus on research, education, and training in areas critical to safe and successful integration of UAS into the nation’s airspace.

PACI is the only Southern Nevada company to be partnered with the FAA’s UAS COE’s External Advisory Board

The State of Nevada UAS Test Site meeting will be held on Thursday, September 17, 2015 From 10:00 am – 12:00 pm Clark County Commission Chambers, 1st floor 500 S. Grand Central Pkwy Las Vegas, Nevada

The purpose of these meetings is to discuss innovation and opportunities at the Test Sites and COE. The Test Sites and COE will host and set the agenda for each public meeting. The meetings will aid both public and private sector stakeholders to better understand the value the Test Sites and COE provide in furthering UAS integration through research, development, and operational testing.

About Praxis Aerospace Concepts International, Inc.

Founded in 2011, PACI is a service-disabled veteran-owned small business based in Southern Nevada. The company’s mission is to develop practical solutions for multi-modal (ground-air-sea-industrial) robotics and unmanned systems (UxS) using a mix of proprietary technology, unique team domain expertise, and unique partnerships, PACI can develop and operate laboratory and field facilities for autonomous systems research, development, test, evaluation, deployment, commercialization, and training. Praxis Aerospace Concepts International, Inc. currently serves over 20 clients with military, public and civil robotics/unmanned systems across the globe. For more information about Praxis Aerospace Concepts International, Inc., visit its website at www.praxisaerospace.com.

Praxis partnered plan to convert Cashman Center into drone testing site earns national honors

Praxis Aerospace Concepts Incorporated (PACInc) is pleased to announce a proposal to turn Cashman Center into a hub for drone and technology research won first prize Wednesday in a federally sponsored contest aimed at community revitalization.

The plan, which would involve redesigning and enlarging the convention center and its grounds to turn it into a research center, earned $500,000 in federal grant money through the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Challenge implemented in 2011. Las Vegas was one of three cities selected through a national competition for the grant funding, along with Greensboro, N.C., and Hartford, Conn.

The winning team — project developers Building a Better Las Vegas — was awarded the prize at Wednesday’s Las Vegas City Council meeting. Competing under the name, the developers topped a field of six finalists and 17 semifinalists. Other proposals included a Latin cultural center and a boxing hall of fame.

Build a Better Las Vegas’ plan calls for establishing a fly zone for drone testing, a canopied area that would cover what is now the baseball field at the 31-acre complex, as well as new spaces for offices and a new corridor that would include the existing Neon Museum, a space and science museum and relocation of the natural history museum. Cashman would become the Unmanned Aerial Robotics Resource Center under the proposal.

PACI provides the Building A Better Las Vegas with technical management of the UARRC and consulting in the field of unmanned aircraft systems design.

Transforming Cashman would cost $150 million and would take 20 years of construction in multiple phases, Russell said. The city now has ownership of the proposal, and federal economic development funds are available to help pay the costs of construction should city officials move forward on it. Build a Better Las Vegas is under no obligation in how to spend its prize money.

Read more about it from the Las Vegas Sun article here.

Las Vegas Sun

Locally owned and independent since 1950; Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Public Servicebest news website in the nation & DuPont Award for broadcast journalism.

FAA Allows Test Sites to Fly UAS Below 200 Feet

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released new regulations for flying Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). Under the new broad area Certificate of Authorization (COA), small UAS weighing less than 55 lbs. can be flown up to 200 feet above ground level nearly anywhere in the country. The flights must be conducted in partnership with one of the seven FAA test sites during daylight and maintain visual line of sight with a pilot.

UAS companies are still required to partner with a test site and each test site will conduct safety and airworthiness checks on the UAS being flown. However, the flight locations are not restricted to the test site’s regional footprint.

Read more about the impact of the FAA’s newest COA on the UASTS here

Metal Rebel Tests Its Mettle

UNLV is among 25 of the world’s best robotics teams competing in the 2015 U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Challenge Finals, an elite competition of robots and their human supervisors, June 5-6 at the Fairplex in Pomona, Calif.

Metal Rebel at DRC Trials in Pomona (Photo Courtesy of UNLV)

With $3.5 million cash prize on the line, teams from academia, industry, and the private sector will test their robots with the goal of deployment as first responders in a disaster zone such as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor incident.

UNLV’s Metal Rebel — a 5-foot-5-inch, 175-pound humanoid robot – will test its mettle against the likes of MIT, NASA and Lockheed Martin in a simulated one-hour course. With little or no human intervention, Metal Rebel will need to drive a vehicle, climb stairs, traverse debris-filled terrain, turn valves, and use power tools.

UNLV’s student/faculty team is led by Paul Oh, Lincy Professor of Unmanned Aerial Systems and a renowned expert in robotics and autonomous systems. Oh is a former program director for robotics at the National Science Foundation and is helping UNLV and Nevada become a national leader in the autonomous systems industry. Joining UNLV on the team are students and one professor from Kookmin University in Seoul, Korea, as well as professionals from robotics company Praxis Aerospace.

Read the full article from the UNLV Campus News here .

FAA Selects Mississippi State University Team As Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems

WASHINGTON – After a rigorous competition, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has selected a Mississippi State University team as the FAA’s Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (COE UAS). The COE will focus on research, education and training in areas critical to safe and successful integration of UAS into the nation’s airspace.

The Alliance for System Safety of UAS Through Research Excellence, or ASSURE, team is comprised of 13 universities and over 90 industry partners, providing the FAA with access to a team of scientists in the UAS community and coordination of activities to achieve common goals.

PACI is the only Southern Nevada industry partner of ASSURE.Access to the national airspace is a vital enabler for commercial and public safety UAS programs.

The COE research areas are expected to evolve over time, but initially will include: detect and avoid technology; low-altitude operations safety; control and communications; spectrum management; human factors; compatibility with air traffic control operations; and training and certification of UAS pilots and other crewmembers, in addition to other areas.

Read the FAA press release here

Teams test robots in Charleston for world competition

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) – Teams from around the world are testing robots in Charleston they designed to do amazing things. The robots can walk, open doors, drive vehicles, and pick up a drill to make a hole in the wall.

SPAWAR offered to host a testing of communications systems in a disaster setting, so teams came to Joint Base Charleston in Goose Creek to give their robots a workout.

DRC-Hubo Team in Chalreston (Photo Courtesy of UNLV)

Read more and see the Local news media report here

Maiden flight for Vanilla Aircraft HALE platform

Vanilla Aircraft’s VA001 Unmanned Aerial System recently completed its first test flight, reaching altitudes of 6,000 feet MSL before landing.

The UAS, powered by an efficient heavy-fuel engine, met all test objectives, according to the company website. The test validated the VA001 design and performance projections. Vanilla Aircraft is planning additional flights to reach the aircraft’s full payload, endurance and altitude capabilities.

The VA001 features 10-day endurance and reduces the operating costs and manpower needed to provide persistent aerial coverage, according to the website. It is designed to complete missions that, until now, have been beyond the capabilities of mid-size UASs.

The VA001 program began development under Vanilla IR&D funding and Phase I and Phase II SBIR funding from the NASA Earth Sciences Division, according to the website.

Congratulations from the Praxis Aerospace Concepts International team to our dear friends at Vanilla Aircraft. We were very proud to be a part of your maiden flight, and will enjoyed seeing your successes in the future.

Read the press release on SuasNews here, and get more information from Inside Unmanned Systems here.

Flying Donkey Challenge on hold as Kenyan authorities cope with Westgate Mall fallout

Today organizers announced that the first edition of the Flying Donkey Challenge in Kenya, which had preliminary sub-challenges slated to begin this November, is on hold indefinitely due to delays in obtaining final approvals from Kenyan authorities.

According to their press release:

Beginning with the horrific Westgate attack last September in Nairobi and following the tragic terrorist attacks near Lamu this month, it has become clear that organising a high visibility drone event in Kenya is incompatible with immediate security concerns. To be clear, it is not that cargo drone testing presents any threat whatsoever to Kenya, or that international participants would be at risk from travelling to Kenya, but only that, for the coming months, the overseers of civil and military aviation in Kenya have made it clear they are unlikely to be able to sign off on legal precedents for autonomous flight.

Since April, we have been pursuing air space approvals and locations in other African locations. While these talks have been productive, our unfortunate conclusion is that we will not be able to confirm a new date and location in 2015. Without a clear time-scale, closing on the budget is not possible. Taking into account the speed with which research and commercial drone ventures are proceeding, we feel it unfair to leave the teams that have applied for the Challenge in limbo and prefer to put the Flying Donkey Challenge in its current format on hold.

Simon Johnson & Jonathan Ledgard
Flying Donkey Challenge Co-Founders

Organizers remain steadfast in their goal to spur a new transport industry using cargo drones in order to solve the problem of supply delivery in places where infrastructure is poor or non-existent.P

Nevada Twenty-Mule Team presents at the IBM-FDC Technical Workshop in Zürich

Zürich , 24 March 2014: The IBM Intelligent Operations Center (IOC) greeted potential FDC participants at the first Flying Donkey Challenge Technical Workshop with the premise: “Can we use IOC as a Master Control System, with links to the authorities such as the KCAA, for the FDC starting in Kenya by November 2014?”

The Workshop began with a keynote by Oliver Evans, Chairman of The International Air Cargo Association & Chief Cargo Officer Swiss WorldCargo.

Representatives from 30 Entrants in the Flying Donkey Challenge

Simon Johnson, Co-Founder, led the Workshop to address a simple objective to demonstrate how IOC could be used to track the location, log the status and send commands (e.g. Abort Flight) to multiple UAVs via operators’ Ground Control Stations.

Selected entrants provided presentations on their team solutions: senseFly, University of Southampton, University of Bristol, Barnard Microsystems Limited, Praxis Aerospace, and the University of Zurich .

PACI CEO discusses Design, Construction and Validation Requirements for Practical UAS

Afterwards, the attendees formed teams to work on best practices and recommendations.

PACI CTO participates in the Command and Control Working Group

About The Nevada Twenty-Mule Team
The Nevada Twenty-Mule Team draws its name from the great Nevada mule teams that hauled minerals across the blistering deserts of Death Valley over 100 years ago. These trains traveled 162 miles from Furnace Creek in Death Valley to Mojave, California; and from the mines at Old Borate to Dagget, the nearest railroad points. Their routes carried them over some of the most forbidding land on the face of the earth: parched and shifting sands of the desert, and dry and rocky ravines of the Funeral Mountains.

The successful transportation of minerals out of Death Valley by the 20-Mule Team is the highest development of this method of transportation, and speaks volumes for the ingenuity and ability of the past.

About The Flying Donkey Challenge 
The Flying Donkey Challenge is an escalating series of sub-challenges held annually in Africa. World-leading roboticists, engineers, regulators, entrepreneurs, logisticians, and designers will win substantial grants by advancing the safety, durability, legality, profitability and friendliness of flying-parcel carriers on a massive scale. Before 2020, with world media attention, the sub-challenges will culminate in a race of Flying Donkeys* around Mount Kenya in under 24 hours, delivering and collecting 20 kilo payloads along the way. The winner(s) will collect a multi-million dollar prize. *Cargo robots with a maximum takeoff weight of 60 kilos

The event is open to worldwide entrants but non-African teams entering the Flying Donkey Challenge must collaborate with a recognised higher education African school or laboratory.

You can read more about the Flying Donkey Challenge here, in this article and in this article here.