About 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas, the little town of Boulder City, Nevada has made a name for itself as the home of Nevada Solar One, a giant solar thermal energy power plant that produces enough power to take 20,000 cars off the roads a year.
But now, Boulder City is aiming to stake a new claim to fame: home to the Aerodrome, the world’s first droneport, a facility aimed primarily at education for commercial users of unmanned aerial systems, but also recreational users and even drone racers.
"The Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) industry envisions an unprecedented $82.1 billion growth between 2015 and 2025," an Aerodrome document claims, "generating at least 103,000 new, high-paying jobs. But the industry faces a crippling talent gap between the number of new jobs that will need to be filled and an undeveloped pool of trained individuals and groups needed to command this bold new skyscape...Aerodrome exists to fill the gap between need and opportunity. We are uniquely prepared to help meet the increasing demand for an unmanned systems workforce."
There are other planned droneport projects around the world, most notably one in Rwanda meant to be the launching pad for drones to make deliveries of medical supplies. But that project hasn’t yet broken ground, according to Aerodrome officials, while parts of the Boulder City project are already operational and the full facility is under construction and expected to be completed by 2018.
The facility is one of six Federal Aviation Administration-approved drone test sites in the United States, Aerodrome officials say.
An FAA task force recently issued recommendations for regulating drones. Among them were that drone pilots fill out an electronic registration for their UAS and that they mark the registration number on their drones prior to flying them.
The droneport is a private project, but open to the public, and offers flight training, drone repair, pilot certification and testing, and other UAS research, development, and educational services. The facility is meant to be used by any aircraft that weighs less than 1,320 pounds.
The Aerodrome is expected to be used by those in the military, first responders, journalists, real estate professionals, agriculture, and other fields.
Courses are taught at the Aerodrome’s Henderson, Nevada, facility, while actual flights would take place at Boulder City.