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FAA clears way to find further use of drones

Reported by: Kelsey Thomas
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Updated: 6/11 2:05 am

LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- We’ve heard a lot about drone technology being used in the military, but drones could soon save lives as well.

The Federal Aviation Administration has cleared Nevada to begin flying unmanned aerial vehicles this summer.

The first flight will take place in Mercury, a town about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, part of nationwide research that will focus on ways to integrate drones into the national airspace system.

Drones have gained notoriety for everything from military attacks to flying spy cameras.

Unlike drones used in the military, UNLV student Greg Friesmuth’s flying aircrafts are meant to go inside buildings.

“This could be used for firefighting and fly inside a burning building,” Friesmuth said.

A drone could navigate through smoke and flames with the help of a tiny onboard computer.

“We don’t have to put human beings [in danger],” said Rama Venkat, Dean of UNLV's College of Engineering. “We don’t have to risk their lives. We can fly a drone and look at what’s happening.”

Venkat says before any of these drones fly, students make sure they can withstand any kind of weather.

“If the wind conditions are really bad, is the package going to be dropped? You've got to secure it," Venkat said.

Inside a small lab at UNLV, a fan simulates different wind conditions.

“It should not crash. It should be able to land,” Venkat said.

In the future, you could get your food and packages delivered by flying drones.

The Marquee Day Club at the Cosmopolitan Casino recently surprised partiers with bottles of alcohol served from above - a $20,000 party favor.

UNLV students are using imagination to create new uses for drones. Instead of the postal service, letters could be dropped off by a drone. A drone could even be the difference between life and death for someone in a car crash.

“If we recognize this person needs a heart transplant or losing a lot of blood, that can be communicated very quickly and also you’re getting a visual that you can transfer to the hospital,” Venkat said.

Lives could be saved, and Friesmuth is convinced jobs won’t be lost with this new industry. “It’s going to be like the robot replaces the factory worker, but you need someone to maintain that robot,” Friesmuth said.

Although technology is still being developed, drones are an inevitable part of the future.

Starting this fall, engineering students at UNLV can minor in drone technologies. The program will teach students how to design, test and build unmanned aerial vehicles.

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