Warren Rapp, business director of the University's Nevada Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center, shared the stage at Directions 2015 last week with northern Nevada business leaders, Lieutenant Governor Mark Hutchinson and political commentator Jon Ralston.
He gave his talk to a full house at the 23rd annual, regional economic forum, held this year in the Silver Legacy Grande Exhibition Hall.
The forum, "Engines of Change - Disruption, Innovation, Job Creation," offered a look at the state's economic outlook for the year and forecasted trends, business concepts and a view at the political climate for economic change.
Rapp spoke about the business strategy of NAASIC and about matching the needs of industry with the University's educational programs.
'We've met with industry leaders and companies in Nevada - the autonomous systems industry is already establishing itself here," he said. "And a variety of industries in Nevada can benefit from the use of UAV's - like mining, agriculture, wildlife management, emergency response - and Nevada is one of five states that allows autonomous cars on the highways."
Rapp gave the audience a lesson in the evolution of unmanned aerial vehicles since 1898, and all the milestones along the way, bringing it back to what we have in Nevada, and the companies already operating or collaborating here, such as drone-delivery company Flirtey with its U.S. headquarters based at the University, Drone America, Trimble and Insitu.
"Trimble is one of four commercial exemptions by the FAA, which allows them to test fly their aircraft," Rapp said. "They are testing at Reno-Stead Airport. There really is exciting stuff going on in Nevada with UAVs. Another new UAV company decided to come to Nevada last week and have already hired two students."
He showed a video highlighting the College of Engineering's many educational opportunities and career paths, which received a round of applause from the audience and explained that in addition to building business relationships and collaborations, NAASIC is about building job opportunities saying, "Our goal is to get students hired in Nevada companies, in these industries."
Rapp ended his presentation with a demonstration of a new research quadcopter being developed at the University. Richard Kelley, a research associate professor, flew the aircraft, as the audience raised cell-phones and cameras to get photos.
Rapp came to the University to lead the charge for development of autonomous systems, bringing industry and education together to build business for the State of Nevada. He's based in the College of Engineering, but NAASIC is a truly collaborative effort across colleges and departments, within the business community and with strong ties to statewide economic development efforts. Rapp also works with the University-based Nevada Industry Excellence, Nevada Small Business Development Center and Office of Sponsored Projects.
"Warren brings a long history of experience and rich expertise in the area of UAS combined with dedication, drive for success and high work standards," Manos Maragakis, dean of the College of Engineering, said. "We are excited to have him in this leadership position for NAASIC and we are looking forward to his contributions to bringing the UAS industry closer to the University and spurring innovation-based economic development."