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UNLV looks to expand its drone studies, starting with a new flight path

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“I’m sitting two feet from two UAVs that we’ve been flying for six years,” UNLV mechanical engineering professor Bill Culbreth says. “These UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) have 6-foot wingspans—they look like bat wings, like F-117A Stealth Bombers.”

A drone like that is traditionally used for surveillance. It’s equipped with autopilot (it can fly through pre-programmed GPS coordinates), or you can fly it by radio control. In fact, UNLV students have been flying drones for some time now. Culbreth, who specializes in aerodynamics, says that he and his students have been piloting drones through the Nevada National Security Site. if the university gets its wish, the flight path will expand soon.

Recently, Culbreth explains, “The federal government created a program where states can identify sites they want to fly through.” Hobbyists can fly without many restrictions, but companies and universities need a Certificate of Authorization.

As UNLV applies, the school looks to expand its drone program. They’re considering a bachelor’s degree focused on unmanned vehicle engineering. And if all goes well, the university might receive research money from both government and industry.

So let’s watch and see what happens with the drones. After all, we know the drones will be watching us. And if all goes well, the university might receive research money from both government and industry.

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Rick Lax

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