Las Vegas Sun

July 3, 2015

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Nevada competing to become commercial drone test site

CARSON CITY — Nevada wants to be one of six places in the United States where commercial drones will be tested.

The state Office of Economic Development today submitted its final applications to host the testing.

Steve Hill, head of the Office of Economic Development, said the testing would have the potential of creating up to 15,000 high-paying jobs in the next ten years if Nevada is selected as one site.

There are 50 applications being submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration.

In Nevada, there are four sites where commercial drones could be tested — near Boulder City; Desert Rock, near the former Nevada Test Site; Stead, north of Reno; and Fallon Naval Air Station.

The private companies would test the unmanned aircraft in the wide open airspaces of Nevada, Hill said.

The issue of drone testing was raised during testimony about a bill proposing tax breaks for the aviation industry. The tax abatements would apply to small charter companies and supply and maintenance facilities for aircraft.

It would not mean a tax reduction for commercial airlines.

The bill, SB-385, was sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, who said he introduced the measure on behalf of Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The state Department of Taxation estimated the loss of revenue over the next biennium would be $460,000 to $1.8 million.

But Richard Merritt of Elliott D. Pollack & Co., an economic and real estate consulting firm, said a conservative estimate is that the industry would yield $6.6 million in added tax revenue over three years.

An optimistic scenario would be $25 million in additional revenue, he said. Forty other states offer these tax benefits, and Nevada is losing out on the business, Merritt said.

The committee did not take action on the bill.

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