Nevada UAS test site tests advanced artificially intelligent unmanned aerial system

The Nevada Governor´s Office of Economic Development (GOED) and the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) has teamed up with Microsoft´s Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) research team to test Artificial Intelligence (AI) in their 16 ½ -foot, 12 ½- pound sailplane, the company said.

The sailplane that Microsoft is testing in Nevada relies on a battery to run onboard computational equipment and controls such as the rudder, plus radios to communicate with the ground.

It also has a motor so that a pilot can take over manual operation when necessary. But once it´s up in the air, the UAS demonstrated its ability to operate on its own, finding and using thermals to travel without the aid of the motor or a person.

Simple and complex Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) testing was conducted at the Hawthorne Advanced Drone Multiplex (HADM) Test Range located at Hawthorne, Nevada. HADM is a 230-square mile area where a variety of UAS applications can be tested including AI. NIAS manages the FAA-designated Nevada UAS Test Site which includes HADM and other UAS test ranges across Nevada.

The Microsoft operation was based at the Hawthorne Industrial Airport where preliminary tests were made. Subsequent tests were conducted at an area east of Walker Lake around six miles from the airport. The team flew three different sail planes that reached an altitude of approximately 1700 feet flying almost two dozen Nevada UAS Test Site Certification of Authorization (COA) flights from August 7-11, 2017.

Created during the 2011 session of the Nevada Legislature, the Governor´s Office of Economic Development is the result of a collaborative effort between the Nevada Legislature and Governor Brian Sandoval to restructure economic development in the state. GOED´s role is to promote a robust, diversified and prosperous economy in Nevada, to stimulate business expansion and retention, encourage entrepreneurial enterprise, attract new businesses and facilitate community development. More information on the Governor´s Office of Economic Development can be viewed at