Yvonne Beasley, RGJ
Brush up on your video-game skills. Drone jobs are coming to Reno.
“Our society has built a ready-made workforce with video games,” said Don Cunningham, business operations manager for the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems.
“It’s the same types of skills: hand-eye coordination and using buttons and levers to make something do something. I know kids in high school that could probably do a better job at flying a UAV than I — and I’m a pilot.”
More jobs, like controllers and maintenance technicians, will be popping up as firms making unmanned aerial vehicles — so-called drones — take hold here. The drone industry will make more than 100,000 U.S. jobs by 2025, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
Recently, UAV-maker Ashima announced a move from California to Reno, with several dozen hires at first and ramping up to about 400 jobs after two years if all goes well.
Another company, Flirtey, will be working with the University of Nevada, Reno on delivery drones. The firm is taking on interns now and is looking for software engineers, said Richard Kelley, a UNR computer science and engineering professor.
Other drone jobs will involve engineering and technical support, Kelley said.
“We’ll also need people that know regulations,” Cunningham said. That’s because drones require specific airworthiness studies to be sure they are capable of flying in the air space.
At this year’s National Championship Air Races, drone makers and drone boosters set up shop in a special “Drone Zone” to show off their UAV feats.
Among the exhibitors:
• Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems. This group is running the Drone Zone show at the Air Races. Under the leadership of Warren Rapp, this new group operates at Reno-Stead Airport to focus on business uses for UAVs.
• Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The school, which has campuses in Florida and Arizona as well as online programs, is running the Drone Zone obstacle course at the Air Races.
• Scion UAS. This Colorado-based company is exhibiting a large-scale helicopter-type UAV in the Drone Zone.
• The City of Fallon. The airport at Fallon was confirmed earlier this year as suitable for drone testing, certification and experimentation.
• NASA. The aerospace agency is working to develop an system for drones that would mimic the air-traffic control systems used by higher-flying manned planes.
• UNR, TMCC and DRI: The three Reno-area schools are working together on education programs for future UAV workers, including engineering, mechanical studies and technical support. UNR began offering a minor in unmanned autonomous systems last spring. TMCC will begin teaching courses related to UAVs in fall 2015.
• Flirtey. The Australian firm will partner with UNR for research in using drones for package delivery.
• Ashima Devices. Developer of the “Hexpuck” pie-shaped drone, the company recently moved to Reno and has said it will employ hundreds of people over the next few years.
• Drone America. This Reno-based company is showing off several of its large UAVs, a firefighting model called the “ScooperDrone,” with a wingspan of more than 30 feet, according to the company’s website.