By RICHARD N. VELOTTA
Nevada will see its first civil aviation drone test flight this summer at a private airfield on the Nevada National Security Site north of Las Vegas near Mercury.
The Federal Aviation Administration approved a certificate of authorization for the state to conduct its first tests, the third state to receive the designation from the federal agency.
“Nevada’s FAA test sites are officially open for business,” said Steve Hill, director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, which has spearheaded the state’s efforts to become a test site, the first step in gradually opening U.S. airspace to unmanned aerial vehicles.
The first flight will be at Desert Rock Airport, a private facility operated by the Department of Energy. The certificate of authorization allows the use of an unmanned vehicle for a first-responder exercise in which the drone will provide overhead views of the exercise.
In the earliest tests, state officials say the unmanned systems will fly within visual sight distances of the ground-based pilots.
Nevada has four sites designated for systems tests. The closest to the Las Vegas Valley is at Boulder City Airport south of the city.