Nevada officials are gearing up for the arrival of NASA drones.

drone murderLAS VEGAS — Nevada officials are gearing up for the arrival of NASA drones.

The state is in final negotiations to allow the space agency to test unmanned aerial vehicles in Nevada airspace, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development said Friday.

Tom Wilczek, who works in the office and focuses on aerospace and defense industries, said a contract should be settled within the next two months. Under the contract, NASA can use a test site for drone-related projects such as developing an air traffic management system and conducting demo flights. The talks have been underway since October.

The agreement could mean a big boost for the state’s technology industry, Wilczek said. NASA would inevitably collaborate with Nevada companies in the commercial drone industry.

“NASA is doing a lot of the (research and development), but they are very, very interested in integrating the technological components that come from industry,” Wilczek said.

The state has not yet determined the testing location, the Las Vegas Sun reported(http://bit.ly/1UeMS5e ), but there are six possibilities with the right testing conditions: Nellis Air Force Base, Reno-Stead Airport, Fallon Municipal Airport, Boulder City Airport, Nevada National Security Site/Desert Rock Airport and Creech Air Force Base. According to Wilczek, NASA has funding to sign agreements to permit testing with all of them.

Nevada officials have also made bids for a NASA simulation center where unmanned aerial vehicles can be tested in particular environments.

The Federal Aviation Administration first designated the six locations as government-approved testing sites in December 2013. But the agency did not offer any funding to go along with the designation. Test sites instead have to depend on entities such as NASA to bankroll such endeavors.

“It’s the opportunity that we’ve all kind of been waiting for,” Wilczek said. “It’s an opportunity for obtaining some really significant research as well as an opportunity to (bring) really exciting (research and development) to Nevada research institutions and Nevada industries.”

Man shoots down drone hovering over house

Man shoots down drone hovering over house

We need to talk anti-aircraft weaponry.

More and more so-called enthusiasts are sending drones into the sky. This means that more and more normal humans are becoming enthusiastic about shooting them out of the sky.

Especially, as in the case of William H. Merideth, the drone is hovering over your house.

Merideth, 47, lives in Hillview, Kentucky. As WDRB-TV reports, a neighbor heard gunshots and called the police. Merideth allegedly told the police that a drone was hovering over his house, where his teen daughter (he has two) was sunbathing. So he pulled out his gun and gave it a merry death.

The drone’s owner, police say, said he was flying it to take pictures of a neighboring house.

However, Merideth told WRDB: “Well, I came out and it was down by the neighbor’s house, about 10 feet off the ground, looking under their canopy that they’ve got under their back yard. I went and got my shotgun and I said, ‘I’m not going to do anything unless it’s directly over my property.'”

And then it allegedly was.

Merideth explained: “I didn’t shoot across the road, I didn’t shoot across my neighbor’s fences, I shot directly into the air.”

He says that shortly after the shooting, he received a visit from four men who claimed to be responsible for the drone, who explained that Merideth owed $1,800.

Merideth says he stood his ground: “I had my 40mm Glock on me and they started toward me and I told them, ‘If you cross my sidewalk, there’s gonna be another shooting.'”

There appears not to have been another shooting. However, Merideth was arrested for wanton endangerment and criminal mischief. There is, apparently, a local ordinance that says you can’t shoot a gun off in the city, but the police charged him under a Kentucky Revised Statute.

I contacted both the Hillview Police Department to ask for its view on proceedings. I will update, should I hear. However, an FAA spokesman told me: “Shooting at aircraft poses a significant safety hazard. An unmanned aircraft hit by gunfire could crash, causing damage to persons or property on the ground, or it could collide with other objects in the air. Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil charges.”

The FAA’s recommendations include not flying above 400 feet and “Don’t fly near people or stadiums.” The FAA adds: “You could be fined for endangering people or other aircraft.”

For his part, Merideth says he will sue the drone’s owners. He told WRDB: “You know, when you’re in your own property, within a six-foot privacy fence, you have the expectation of privacy. We don’t know if he was looking at the girls. We don’t know if he was looking for something to steal. To me, it was the same as trespassing.”

It is, indeed, hard to know whether things that buzz in the sky have positive or negative intentions. Amateur drones disrupted efforts to fight recent California wildfires to such a degree that there’s now a $75,000 reward for anyone who identifies those responsible. A Southern California lawmaker has created a bill that would make it legal for the authorities to shoot these drones out of the sky.

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Elliot T. Anderson of the Nevada Assembly District explains why he pushed law regulating drone use

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John Locher / AP

From left, Joe Burns, Scott Carrigan and Dan Johnson of Sensurion Aerospace prepare the Sensurion Aerospace Magpie commercial drone for a flight Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, near Boulder City.

Monday, July 27, 2015 | 2 a.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Assemblyman Elliot T. Anderson of the Nevada Assembly District.

The real-world applications for drones are nearly limitless: Police could use them for search operations; businesses could use them for delivery or marketing.

But unmanned aerial vehicles have critics, too, who worry the technology could undermine civil liberties. Are you protected if a drone peeps through your window? Or if a neighbor flies a drone over your yard?

With such concerns in mind, a number of state legislatures have passed drone-specific laws to protect privacy. Nevada, which hopes a drone test site designation could be an economic booster, is one of them.

The Legislature unanimously approved a bill, effective Oct. 1, that prohibits the weaponization of drones and allows homeowners to file trespass charges involving drones in certain circumstances. It also requires law enforcement to obtain warrants for flying drones in the immediate area of a home, where there is an expectation of privacy.

The Sunday spoke with bill sponsor Assemblyman Elliot Anderson about why he pushed the measure and what it protects.

Where did your interest in unmanned aerial vehicles come from?

Well, we passed a resolution that encouraged the Federal Aviation Administration to create a test site in Nevada, and I realized then we hadn’t really thought about privacy. I decided if we were going to have the UAV industry come to the state, then we should give Nevadans some comfort with the privacy regulation because there really isn’t a lot right now that is suitable for this new technology.

Is this the start of the regulatory process or a final version of what the regulatory structure for UAVs will be?

Right now, I feel like the law is pretty complete. It was fairly comprehensive. We touched a lot of different areas, which is different from many states that just dealt with law enforcement use. It was designed to try to be all encompassing.

The law prohibits drones from being weaponized. Why?

I know there are people who want to develop that. I have seen UAVs equipped with very, very powerful machine guns on YouTube. It can be done. It’s one of those things people think about when they think of UAVs, so I wanted to be able to say, “This isn’t allowed in our state.” That’s another way, I think, to make people more comfortable with the technology.

Does that apply to law enforcement too?

Correct.

Is there a concern police might weaponize UAVs?

No. I don’t think law enforcement is interested in that. I think law enforcement is interested in officer safety during tactical operations.

Some privacy concerns are covered by the Fourth Amendment in terms of what law enforcement can and can’t do with UAVs. What else does the bill provide for regarding privacy protections involving law enforcement?

It provides additional protection for homeowners. Police already need a warrant under the Fourth Amendment if a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, which is mostly at home. This bill extends it to the curtilage of a residence, which in layman’s terms means your backyard, your front yard, areas that are part and parcel with your home. The reason is, this is a different technology. It can go into tighter spaces. It can go into your backyard, and you might not even know.

What about privacy protections involving people not affiliated with law enforcement — in other words, hobbyists or commercial pilots?

We protected homeowners’ property rights through what is called a trespass cause of action. The bill creates a trespass cause of action if you are flying under 250 feet. We set an artificial height limit to ensure people could have protection but we couldn’t stump the industry because obviously people need to fly over and traverse different areas.

That being said, the cause of action really is focused on your average person who isn’t a professional, who isn’t a business and who potentially could be irresponsible. Businesses are granted immunity from a lawsuit as long as they are in the scope of their business activities.

So let’s say my house was in the middle of an Amazon shipping center’s drone path, and there were constantly Amazon drones flying above my house all day and night. What would be my recourse? There’d be none. We can’t stop commerce. We have to allow the industry to flourish.

This bill is designed to strike a balance between protecting people’s privacy rights and allowing the industry to flourish. We cannot go so far that we stop businesses from utilizing this technology. It only hurts us.

VIDEO: Anti-drone protesters try to block pilots at Nevada air base

INDIAN SPRINGS — Metro police arrested Father Louis Vitale and 33 others for trespassing and blocking a road at Creech Air Force Base where 140 peace activists had gathered early Friday to protest U.S. drone operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Overseas operations involving unmanned Predator and Reaper aircraft are controlled remotely via satellite links at the base, 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas, by pilots and sensor operators who sit at computer consoles.

The protesters, who had camped out this week across from the base to prepare for civil disobedience actions, blame U.S. drones for killing innocent civilians in attempts by the Air Force and the CIA to curb overseas terrorist attacks with laser-guided Hellfire missiles and bombs, in the case of Reapers, fired from drones.

“Shut down Creech!” the throng chanted after Las Vegas police gave a 5-minute warning for the crowd to disperse at 7:20 a.m.

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“This is an outrage to God and the universe,” Vitale, a Franciscan priest from Oakland, Calif., said as he knelt on a white line on an entrance road.

“Here we are reaching out thousands of miles away and killing people. It’s a horrible thing,” he said as police approached to apprehend him. “I have talked to people here that work on the drones … scared to death and say, ‘I love the Air Force but can’t stand what I do.’ ”

The protest was nonviolent. No one was injured.

Creech officials provided a reaction to a Review-Journal query early in the week that quotes the 432nd Wing commander, Col. Jim Cluff.

“We respect the members’ rights to protest peacefully, and as we’ve done in the past,” he said. “We are working closely with civilian law enforcement to ensure safety of those entering and exiting the base, as well as the safety of those protesting off base.”

In all, 34 men, women and two juveniles were arrested in four waves of civil disobedience actions near base entrances. They were cited and released on state misdemeanor charges of trespass or pedestrian in the roadway. One person was arrested on an outstanding warrant, according to Las Vegas police.

The protest was organized by contingents of peace and faith-based activists, including those from the Nevada Desert Experience, Veterans for Peace and Code Pink: Women for Peace.

A Vietnam War Navy veteran, Phil Frank, of Indian Springs, protested the protesters.

“I consider myself an American patriot,” he said, standing by a sign that reads “RPA’s (remotely piloted aircraft) Protect Freedom. God Bless Our Troops.”

“I believe our military has our country’s best interest at mind, and this program is helping to keep our families safe, our country safe. That’s what it amounts to,” Frank said as protesters walked from their makeshift Camp Justice across U.S. 95 to a Creech base access road.

Nick Mottern, who produced and funded a 15-second TV spot that urges drone operators to refuse to fly them on military missions, responded to an email asking what is the solution to stopping terrorist acts that kill innocent people.

“Americans have been led to believe in the fantasy that drones are special weapons that can stop ‘terrorism,’” he wrote. “But the solution to ‘terrorism’ is obviously not for the United States to do more killing. The answer must begin with the United States stopping its part in the cycle of killing in the Middle East and Afghanistan, ending its occupation there, and allowing people to resolve their own issues.”

Cluff reacted to the TV spot and a statement by Jackie Barshak, of Women for Peace, who urged him to stop deadly drone violence. In an email, he said his wing’s primary mission “is intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) first. Precision strike, or kinetic engagement, only occurs when needed and when the appropriate approval clearances, and rules of engagement have been met.

“That being said, our combatant commanders expect and demand unique ISR capabilities that only the Air Force can provide, and we will continue to strive to meet those demands 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days year,” Cluff said.

Contact Keith Rogers at krogers@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0308. Find him on Twitter: @KeithRogers2

CREECH AIR FORCE BASE

Posted 7/12/2012 Printable Fact Sheet

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Creech Air Force Base main gate
The Creech AFB Main Gate is on U.S. Highway 95, at the north end of the small town of Indian Springs, Nev. Creech is home to the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, and is one of two emergency divert airfields for the 15,000-square-mile Nevada Test and Training Range Complex. The base is located about 45 miles northwest of Nellis AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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• GENERAL WILBUR L. “BILL” CREECH

Today, Creech Air Force Base, Nev., is the home to the famed “Hunters” of the 432d Wing and 432d Air Expeditionary Wing. The base also hosts the operations of the 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron and 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron, and those of the Air Force Reserve’s 78th Reconnaissance Squadron and Nevada Air National Guard’s 232d Operations Squadron.

The base was established in the aftermath of the devastating December 7, 1941, aerial attack on Pearl Harbor, a horrific event that thrust America and a newly organized US Army Air Forces into World War II. Initially a “tent city” military training camp, in March 1942 efforts began to construct more permanent fixed facilities. In the seven decades since, the installation’s tradition and missions have continued to focus on answering the first call to duty–preparing Airmen for direct combat and support in an unwavering service to the nation.

Built one mile northwest of the community of Indian Springs, Nev., and about 35 miles northwest of the city of Las Vegas, Nev., the camp was named the Indian Springs Airport. The Army had contracted for regular facilities by the end of 1942, and by February 1943 the camp was used as a divert field and as a base for air-to-air gunnery training. Supporting B-17s and T-6s until March 1946, the base went into stand-by status with maintenance by a small housekeeping staff. As part of the post-war drawdown, both Indian Springs Airport and Las Vegas Army Air Field (now Nellis AFB) were inactivated in January 1947.

Along with Las Vegas Army Air Field, Indian Springs Airport reopened in January 1948 following the birth of an Independent Air Force and the onset of the Cold War. Assigned to Air Training Command, the field was subsequently redesignated Indian Springs AFB and gained its first permanently assigned Air Force unit in 1950. A renewal of airpower innovation and tactics in the service during the Korean War left its mark on the base. Made into an auxiliary field in August 1951, the base transferred to the Air Research and Development Command in July 1952, and realigned under the Air Force Special Weapons Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After the 3600th Air Demonstration Team “Thunderbirds” moved to Nellis AFB in June 1956, the Indian Springs airfield became their primary air demonstration practice site.

In 1961, control of the installation at Indian Springs shifted to Tactical Air Command. The base’s myriad of roles throughout the 20th century belied its size and resources. A successive string of host and tenant organizations, ranging from groups to detachments, provided support to on- and off-site missions. Critical but little known responsibilities included support to the Continental Nuclear Test Program and service as a key staging base for the delivery of testing materials to the Soviet Union for joint verification tests. The base’s proximity to such remote but essential locations led to the arrival of its most distinguished visitor on December 8, 1962, as President John F. Kennedy arrived at Indian Springs AFB before proceeding by helicopter to the Nevada Test Site for an inspection of those facilities.

During this era the base had two enduring and well known roles. It provided range maintenance for sections of the huge Nellis Test and Training Range. Concurrently, it served as a recurring host base for deployments by Airmen and aviators from all the services in search of realistic, less constrained field training. Despite these vital and persistent contributions to critical missions and the development of air superiority, the base acquired no singular operational mission of its own. A detachment of UH-1n helicopters in the 1970s and 1980s constituted the only aircraft unit assigned to the installation. With no fanfare, the Air Force officially redesignated the base from Indian Springs AFB to Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field.

Following the inactivation of Tactical Air Command in 1992, Indian Springs AFAF fell under the new Air Combat Command. A new era began on December 13, 1996, with the first flight of the RQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft at the airfield. In a defining moment of history, on the Nellis AFB Range, the Predator conducted the first successful firing of a Hellfire missile in February 2001. This transformation of a reconnaissance platform into an offensive weapon would, in a few short years, transform Indian Springs from a center of support to a center of operations reaching far beyond the horizons of the Nevada desert.

On June 20, 2005, with the transfer of the remotely piloted aviation mission to Indian Springs growing rapidly, the U.S. Air Force redesignated Indian Springs AFAF as Creech AFB in honor of Gen. Wilbur L. Creech. Naming the installation for General Creech, commander of Tactical Air Command from 1978 to 1984, and a veteran of more than 275 combat missions in Korea and Vietnam, was all the more fitting given his unofficial title as the “father of the Thunderbirds.” A fearless pioneer, and commander of the Skyblazers Aerial Demonstration team that preceded the Thunderbirds, General Creech became a Thunderbird pilot and senior mentor.

The shifting of a global remotely piloted aviation mission to Creech AFB, to include aircrew training and the supporting, directing and coordination of combat sorties halfway across the world, continues to the present. On March 13, 2007, the arrival of the first MQ-9 Reaper at Creech marked another milestone in the base’s growing fleet of remotely piloted aircraft. The U.S. Air Force provided for direct leadership of these missions on May 1, 2007, with the activation of the 432d Wing at Creech. Activation of the 432d Air Expeditionary Wing at Creech on May 15, 2008 formally recognized the full spectrum of these operations.

Today Creech continues to serve as the aerial demonstration training site of the Air Force’s Thunderbirds, and to engage in daily Overseas Contingency Operations as the home base of remotely piloted aircraft systems which fly missions across the globe.

For additional information, visit the Creech Air Force Base website.

Protesters at Nevada air base call for end to drone warfare

drone-pilot-nevadaLAS VEGAS (AP) — Protesters at the gate of an air base in southern Nevada are calling for an end to U.S. drone missions that they say kill many more civilians than terrorists halfway around the world.

Organizer Toby Blome said Thursday that no violence and no arrests resulted from the first day of a demonstration outside Creech Air Force Base northwest of Las Vegas.

Blome says several advocacy groups including Veterans for Peace, CODEPINK Women for Peace and Nevada Desert Experience are organizing a larger protest Friday.

She says they want to block drone pilots from entering the base.

Base public affairs officers didn’t immediately respond to questions about the protest.

Protest planners say they want to stop remotely piloted aircraft from flying armed missions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Student-run drone company SkyWorks is getting off the ground in Las Vegas

Greg Friesmuth skyworks

Greg Friesmuth, CEO/founder, displays the Qua.R.K. (Quad Rotor Research Kit) drone at SkyWorks, a company producing research drones, in Henderson Monday, Jan. 26, 2015.

 

STEVE MARCUS

SkyWorks
Greg Friesmuth, CEO/founder, flies the Qua.R.K. (Quad Rotor Research Kit) drone at SkyWorks, a company producing research drones, in Henderson Monday, Jan. 26, 2015. Launch slideshow »
A year ago, Greg Friesmuth spent most of his time in the Cage, a cramped room in UNLV’s science and engineering building where he tested homemade drones for a company he had just founded called Skyworks.
Now he’s a graduate and spends most days in the Pit, a windowless room full of workbenches and computers inside Skyworks’ new office in Henderson, where the startup took up a lease this summer.

A lot has changed.

Today, the 25-year-old has investors to persuade, six full-time employees to manage and customers — mostly universities — to satisfy. Skyworks also has its first product: the Qua.R.K., a sophisticated quadrotor drone.

So far they’ve produced 10 of the drones. UNLV bought four to use in classes they’re introducing as part of a minor announced last fall on unmanned aerial systems.

“We’ve actually gone from an idea to a business,” Friesmuth said.

The Pit is where Qua.R.K.s are assembled after their frames arrive from a 3D printer offsite. Loose wires and circuits are piled among power tools and the occasional toy drone lying around to teach new employees how to fly.

“This is where we engineer stuff and sometimes put drones together,” Friesmuth joked.

Walk through the Pit and there’s a good chance you’ll step on a Lego. Most of Friesmuth’s employees are either current UNLV students or recent graduates, like COO Jinger Zeng, a mechanical engineer who helped a team at UNLV design an efficient home that nearly won a Department of Energy “solar decathlon” competition.

Before producing the Qua.R.K., SkyWorks won several business competitions, including $80,000 from the Southern Nevada Business Plan competition.

Skyworks’ primary focus is indoor drones, in part because the Federal Aviation Administration’s strict regulations on outdoor use can make it risky for investment firms to pour money into a company that could be regulated out of business. Focusing indoors also makes Skyworks stand out among its peers.

“The thrill of being part of something new is really exciting,” said Rakitha Perera, an electrical engineering major at UNLV who works as the company’s full-time media director. “You start learning, then refining and you keep going.”

Though it’s entirely run by twenty-somethings — and one 18-year-old — their approach to business is meticulous.

While other companies are busy churning out cheap drones to keep the world’s hobbyists stocked for the next decade, Skyworks is sitting back, tweaking code and streamlining.

“A camera is an easy thing to throw in a drone,” Friesmuth said. “If you want a drone that does anything else, that solution doesn’t exist.”

There is a lot of money to be made in developing technology that can accomplish what Friesmuth calls the “dirty, dangerous and dull.” For instance: Why risk sending a human to survey an unstable mineshaft when a drone equipped with a collage of high-tech sensors could do it?

The Qua.R.K., which costs $9,000, has four rotors and a square foundation containing the flight software. Skyworks designed the Qua.R.K. to be easily customized by attaching different modules and sensors. Even the software can be tweaked.

Attach a laser-scanning module to the drone to construct a 3D map of a certain area, for example, or a radiation sensor that could measure the level of damage in a nuclear reactor after a disaster like Fukushima.

When you buy a Qua.R.K., Friesmuth says, you’re buying a toolbox. That means Skyworks can serve a wide variety of clients who can adapt the drone to serve their specific needs.

“It’s a new approach to quadrotors,” he said. “There haven’t really been any other drones out there that have this modular concept.”

Right now, Skyworks is courting more investors and working to get the Qua.R.K. classified as an experimental aircraft, which would exempt it from some federal restrictions.

Around $200,000 has been invested into the company so far, mostly from private individuals called angel investors. Skyworks is hoping to raise around $1 million.

Now that they have sold their first drones, the next step is using information gathered from customers to strengthen the company’s business model. After that, Friesmuth said the company could be ready for serious venture capital investment.

“Right now there’s a lot of money going into other companies, so we need similar financials to compete,” Friesmuth said. “Drones are going to be as big as phones and computers.”

DEA Agents Worry Drones Being Used to Surveil Law Enforcement…

drone 2As multi-billion-dollar international conglomerates intent on smuggling drugs, people, and other contraband across America’s southern border, drug cartels are always looking for the newest and best technology to help move their product. And the smugglers have come a long way from the days when border tunnels and small private planes were state-of-the-art. Their latest innovation: drones.

Drones by definition do not need an on-board pilot. This means that drones can be far smaller than manned aircraft — and that in the case of a crash, there is no one on board to be killed, or captured and interrogated.
A recent incident on the Mexican side of the United States’ southern border has shed new light on how drones are being used by both sides in the War on Drugs. Late last month a drone overloaded with meth crash-landed in a supermarket parking lot in Tijuana, Mexico, less than half a mile from the border, and was recovered by Mexican law-enforcement officials. The drone’s existence provides a rare glimpse of the constantly evolving tactics of transnational smugglers, and it also raises questions about the U.S. federal government’s surveillance of the border. The U.S. law-enforcement agencies in charge of policing the border claim to be ready for any threat posed by drones. But they also operate a poorly managed drone program of their own that has drawn heavy criticism from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general.

Special Agent Matt Barden of the Drug Enforcement Agency says the DEA does not take the proliferation of drones lightly; along with its counterparts in Mexico, the agency is studying the crashed-drone incident. However, Barden adds that this is not the first time the DEA has discovered that drones have been used to move drugs undetected. “This is something that’s not new,” he explains. “We’ve heard about this, but more prominently with people trying to get a small amount of drugs or contraband into a prison or some confines of a locked or guarded facility — trying to get stuff in or out.”

The biggest concerns about cartel-operated drones, Barden says, have nothing to do with the actual movements of drugs. “Is it a good way to get some dope out of the woods or out of the jungle to a waiting car or vehicle? Yeah,” Barden says. “Better yet, to me personally, is it a better way to perform surveillance on law enforcement? Absolutely. That scares me a whole lot more than does the smuggling aspect of it.” He adds that if DEA agents encountered drones that could expose a confidential mission or jeopardize their safety, the agents would use discretion but would bring the drones down as swiftly as possible.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, on the other hand, is downplaying concerns about the potential for growing use of unmanned aircraft at the border. “To date, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has not intercepted any drones smuggling narcotics across the borders into the United States,” CBP spokesman Carlos Lazo said in a statement. “In collaboration with our federal, state, local and international law enforcement partners, CBP remains vigilant against emerging trends and ever-changing tactics employed by transnational criminal organizations behind illegal attempts to smuggle narcotics into the U.S.”

Outwardly, the Border Patrol appears to be ready for drone-powered drug smugglers. Border Patrol agents would not comment on the counter-measures the agency might employ to combat drones that are threatening its agents or being used in the commission of crimes. But the Border Patrol has an arsenal of drones of its own. The agency’s Unmanned Aircraft System has a fleet of nine Predator B drones that can fly for 20 hours straight and travel at speeds up to 276 miles per hour to help secure the nation’s border. Predator B drones, which are also used by the military, are much more sophisticated and powerful than the drone that crashed in Mexico. The drug-smuggling drone was much smaller, slower, and less durable than the top-dollar equipment paid for by American taxpayers.

But while, on its face, the Border Patrol’s drone program gives the agency a firm technological advantage over the cartels, DHS’s inspector general recently concluded that the program has been poorly managed for several years. Near the end of last year, the IG issued a report saying that the Border Patrol could not prove that its program was effective, because the agency had failed over the last eight years to develop performance measures. The report revealed that the program cost nearly $10,000 more per hour of flying time than DHS claimed and that, while the Predator B drones were expected to fly over the border 16 hours a day, 365 days a year, the aircraft were actually airborne just over 3.5 hours a day on average. The Border Patrol agreed with the IG’s conclusions and recommendations in principle, but then issued its own report disagreeing with the findings.

When drones become the subject of bad news, as with the crash in Tijuana, the fledgling commercial drone industry suffers. Brendan Schulman, an attorney who leads the commercial-drone division of the New York–based law firm of Kramer Levin, says he is worried that misconceptions about drones could lead to stifling regulations.

“The use of drones by criminal enterprises is still a relatively new phenomenon, so while we’ve read the occasional story about drugs at the border or contraband being dropped behind prison walls, I think it’s still an unusual way to try to deliver contraband,” Schulman says. “This is still the early days of civilian drone technology and . . . what I hope we don’t see on a federal level is an overreaction.”

How federal and local law-enforcement officers plan to incorporate drones into their daily activities remains to be seen, but drone technology appears poised to become an integral part of protecting the nation’s borders — if the Border Patrol cleans up its act.

— Ryan Lovelace is a William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow at National Review.

Nevada agency temporarily clips funds, staff for drone program

The state agency that funds Nevada’s unmanned aerial systems program has temporarily cut funding and staffing until the Federal Aviation Administration can catch up to the state’s pace.

Economic Development Director Steve Hill told the Nevada Institute of Autonomous Systems board on Monday that the state is reassigning three of the six employees dedicated to the civilian drone program and trimming the division’s monthly budget from $140,000 to $75,000.

The reason: The state geared up to move quickly when it was named one of six states to perform commercial drone testing in the FAA’s bid to mix unmanned aircraft into U.S. airspace by the end of September.

But the state has found it’s taking considerably longer for the federal agency to draft regulations and approve programs that Nevada is already prepared to undertake. Rather than devote resources to programs that are on hold, state officials opted to ramp down the program and allow the FAA to catch up. State officials hope to resume previous funding levels by the middle of the year.

The company contracted to operate the state’s program management office, Bowhead Systems and Technology Group, also is expected to reassign personnel as a temporary measure.

Four sites have been identified for drone testing in the state, including Boulder City Airport south of Las Vegas. The FAA has been working to develop separate rules for small unmanned craft that would enable the state to identify other remote locations where smaller vehicles could be tested.

Rules were expected to be published last year, but those have been delayed.

Although the granting of certificates of authorization has slowed, the board overseeing the state’s commercial drone testing program on behalf of the governor’s economic development office voted unanimously Monday to proceed on an education program that would teach student pilots to fly unmanned aircraft, focusing on the safety and regulatory aspects of their systems.

Don Cunningham of Bowhead said the company is within weeks of approving a request for proposals for introductory unmanned systems training at an unspecified indoor venue. The proposal is to offer a three-day seminar for middle school, high school and college-level students interested in pursuing unmanned systems careers.

Cunningham said he hopes to have events in both Southern and Northern Nevada that would draw up to 100 students who would pay $1,000 to $1,200 for the seminar that would include purchase of a small quadcopter drone.

Cunningham said if the seminars prove popular they could be conducted as often as every other month and attract students from out of state as well as from Nevada. He expects the first class to be formed by early April.

In another matter, Cunningham told the board that the Bowhead and the FAA have completed their review of the high-profile crash of Sensurion Aerospace’s Magpie, the company’s flagship unmanned vehicle.

Before a gathering of about 50 dignitaries and media in a clearing near the Copper Mountain Sempra Solar plant about 20 miles southwest of Boulder City on Dec. 18, the vehicle was hand-launched and plummeted to the desert floor seconds after it left a Sensurion executive’s hands.

The incident was classified as an “aborted takeoff” and not an air accident or incident worthy of greater FAA scrutiny.

Sensurion officials said a malfunctioning transistor resulted in the aircraft losing power.

Two hours before the demonstration flight recorded by videographers, the Magpie flew for about 10 minutes.

Despite the mishap, the event was deemed a success because it was the first drone flight under the state’s designation as a test facility.

Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Find him on Twitter: @RickVelotta.

STATE OF CORRUPTION: Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval used the term “unmanned aerial systems” instead of DRONES in his 2015 State-of-the-State

Nevada became one of only six national training sites for unmanned aerial systems. – NV Gov. Brian Sandoval

Drone NevadaCARSON CITY, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) — Here is the full transcript from Governor Brian Sandoval’s State of the State speech:

“Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Distinguished Members of the Legislature, Honorable Justices of the Supreme Court, Constitutional Officers:

My Fellow Nevadans:

I’m incredibly grateful and honored that I have the solemn privilege of serving as your governor.

Tonight I wish to speak with you, not just about the state of our state, but about a plan to modernize and transform Nevada for its next 50 years of success.

Let me take a moment to recognize Nevada’s First Lady, Kathleen Sandoval, as well as my daughters, Maddy and Marisa, my parents, Ron and Teri Sandoval, and my sister, Lauri.

Tonight we welcome 20 freshmen legislators.

Governor Brian Sandoval State of CORRUPTION

Governor Brian Sandoval State of CORRUPTION

Twenty years ago, I was a freshmen legislator, so I know exactly how you are feeling.

Will all the new legislators please stand so we can acknowledge your commitment to public service?

Sadly, since we last met, a great many former legislators have departed.

We lost a Nevada giant in Speaker Joe Dini.

A total of 19 legislators will long be remembered for their service.

Please join me for a moment of silence in their honor.

Thank you.

One month ago today, at the final event of the Nevada Sesquicentennial, I helped seal a time capsule that is now buried at the Capitol.

drone-pilot-nevadaThe contents capture a snapshot of the Nevada family today, to be presented to a 200-year-old Nevada in 2064.

I wrote a letter to Nevada’s bicentennial governor for the time capsule.

As I wrote, I realized that the success or failure of the governor and people of Nevada in 2064 will largely depend upon our decisions today.

Ladies and gentlemen, we stand at a unique moment in time.

Having just completed our Sesquicentennial, we have proudly celebrated our state’s history.

Tonight we begin writing the next chapter of that story.

We must decide if that chapter is about getting through the next two years, or about creating a New Nevada – for the generations to come.

The most recent chapter of our story required strength and perseverance as we weathered one of the worst economic storms in our history.

These times were even more challenging because they coincided with two long and difficult wars.

Even though some said it couldn’t be done, we managed to lay the foundation for a New Nevada:

Nevada became one of only six national training sites for unmanned aerial systems.

We attracted Tesla in one of the most competitive site selections in our nation’s history.

droneWe became the home to dozens of other national brands who now employ Nevadans in industries of the future – cyber security, medicine, aviation, renewable energy, manufacturing, data storage and more. During my first State of the State Message in 2011, Nevada led the nation in unemployment. We set a goal then of 50,000 new jobs – we have almost doubled that. Today, Nevada’s job growth is third strongest in the country, we have cut our unemployment rate in half, and we have the second fastest growing population in the nation. We are adding good jobs in almost every sector, with business services, manufacturing, health services, gaming and tourism leading the way.

And yet, the success of our state is inextricably linked to the well-being of our most vulnerable citizens.

And I believe we have made significant progress in that regard.

Two years ago, 23 percent of Nevadans lacked health insurance, the second worst ranking in the nation.

Today, that number has been reduced by more than half, to 11 percent, and we are the fourth most improved state in the country.Google drone delivery

The uninsured rate for our children has dropped from 15 percent to 2 percent.

Nearly three-fourths of our Medicaid and Nevada Check-Up populations are covered by care management, which saves the state $13 million, and ensures that nevadans receive timely, cost-effective and appropriate health care.

In 2013, our behavioral health system was in a crisis.

Individuals waited days to access inpatient psychiatric treatment, and emergency rooms were overflowing.

Through the work of the Department of Health and Human Services, the specially-created Behavioral Health and Wellness Council, and many others, there have been dramatic improvements.

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BLM: Keep your drones away from wildfires

drones fireU.S. Bureau of Land Management officials in Nevada are warning drone pilots to keep their aircraft away from wildfires.

The agency says it’s counted at least four instances this year when a drone has flown in or near a wildfire zone where flights were temporarily restricted. One of those incidents happened in northern California.

BLM Fire Management Officer Shane McDonald says he understands the appeal of shooting close-up video of a wildfire using a drone, but says they could cause a tragedy if they hit firefighters on the ground or crash into fire suppression helicopters and tankers.

BLM officials say pilots who interfere with firefighting efforts could face fines or criminal charges.

Reno Air Races welcomes drones

The competition features an obstacle course, a time trial and a dead lift, and will test speed, agility and strength. The drones must be able to take off and land vertically, and can be no bigger than 36 inches in major axis and 10 pounds.

“(It) is a thrill for us and is something that our fans won’t be able to see anywhere else in the world,” Mike Major, chairman of the Reno Air Racing Association, said in a statement. “This is a one-of-a-kind chance for people to get up close and personal with this technology in a fun and challenging environment.”

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide based in Daytona Beach, Fla., is staging the drone competition with a limited field of 20 private and commercial entrants.

Embry-Riddle officials said they created the Small UAS Challenge as a way to promote and recognize the emerging unmanned aerial systems industry.

Late last year, Nevada was selected by federal officials as one of six states to serve as a national testing site for drone technology. Nevada officials hope the fledgling industry can be a boon to the economy.

Nearly 120 pilots are competing in six classes of aircraft in the National Championship Air Races. During the races, pilots fly wingtip-to-wingtip, as low as 50 feet off the sagebrush, on an oval path around pylons, with distances and speeds depending on the class of aircraft.

The competition has been the site of tragedy.

On Monday, a 64-year-old retired Air Force fighter pilot from California was killed in a plane crash while attempting to qualify for the air races. Lee Behel of San Jose died when his GP-5 went down at Stead Airport north of Reno.

In 2011, a plane crashed in a grandstand at the air races and killed 11 people. Dozens more were injured.

NEVADA CAPITAL CROSSFIRE Drones — Balancing Privacy with the Need for Innovation

The latest edition of Capital Crossfire explores drones and their future in Nevada. Join Karl Neathammer and Shelly Aldean with guests Steve Tackes, a senior partner of Kaempfer Crowell Law and Karl Hutter, COO of Click Bond, a local manufacturing company in Carson City as they discuss new developments in the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (“Drones”) and the regulatory challenges associated with their use.

The program airs on Access Carson City Television (Charter Cable Channel 226) on Tuesdays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and Sundays at 7:30 p.m. For past Capital Crossfire programs go toVideo on Demand here.

For a list of program air times for Access Carson City Television go here.

Based in Nevada’s state capital of Carson City, Capital Crossfire is an issues and discussion program that encourages open discourse without contention and in recognition of the facts. The program explores current issues and the facts behind those issues in a lively, non-contentious discussion with hosts Shelly Aldean and Karl Neathammer.

Follow Capital Crossfire on Facebook here.

Spy Drone Technology Can See What You are Wearing From 17,500 Feet

Rise Of The Drones: http://video.pbs.org/video/2326108547

A new camera developed by the Pentagon’s research arm was highlighted in a recent special on PBS’ “Nova” in an episode called “Rise of the Drones.” It’s a camera system so detailed it can discern specific movements and even what a subject is wearing. Continue reading