Aerospace, Unmanned Aerial Systems, and Defense



The Defense and Aerospace cluster has historically been an important part of the Southern Nevada regional economy.  Between the Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases and the Nevada Testing and Training Range, the Department of Defense employs approximately 14,000 airmen, civilian staff, and contractors in Southern Nevada. In recent years, the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) industry has become an important part of our economy. Creech AFB, in the town of Indian Springs northwest of Las Vegas, is the global home of drone operations for the Air Force. Additionally, Nevada is one of six locations that the FAA selected to be a center for Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) development in the United States. As a UAS development site, the most likely economic forecast shows that there could be thousands of jobs for UAS direct employees with an average wage of approximately $62,000; an estimated $2.5 billion in economic impact in present dollars; and an estimated $125 million in annual state and local tax revenue.

Find out more about Southern Nevada’s: Unmanned Aerial Systems companies, Aviation and Aerospace companies, and Defense Contractors by scrolling below. 



Defense, Aerospace, and UAS Cluster

Employment in Cluster (Excluding DOD personnel) 8,313
Regional Yearly Average Wage in Cluster $77,792
Cluster Employment Growth (2014/15) 1.0%

Southern Nevada Defense, aerospace & UAS industries

regional average wages

Aircraft Mechanics & Service Technicians $62,150
Engineering Services $78,925
Research & Development $94,676
Flight Training $87,973
Other Support Activities for Air Transportation $69,430

Why Fly Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and experimental aircraft in Nevada?

Nevada’s airspace is unique: it has expansive Military Operations Areas (MOAs) for testing, and general aviation airspace ranges from extremely low density (both aircraft and population) to extremely high density in certain areas.  Restricted airspace can be negotiated using partnerships with Department of Defense and Department of Energy facilities.

Southern Nevada has:

  • A climate ideal for testing and R&D with 320 days of sunshine and among the most predictable weather patterns in the nation
  • Low costs of start-up and operations
  • Abundance of economical commercial real estate near designated UAV airports near key metro areas, with large warehouse-type facilities available
  • Competitive utility rates for commercial operations
  • Robust data storage capacity, cloud computing resources and providers in-state

In short, innovation in aerospace and advanced systems is in our DNA. Nevada is the birthplace of the UAS industry. Nevada is the first state to integrate UAVs into its National Guard program, the first to license autonomous cars on public roads, and we have more Department of Defense UAV pilots than any other state.

Tax Abatements on Aircraft Parts

In 2015, the Nevada Legislature passed AB 161, a bill designed to reduce the Nevada tax burden on aviation businesses. The bill authorizes aviation companies, with the assistance of the LVGEA, to apply to the Office of Economic Development for a partial abatement of personal property or sales and use taxes. A business that is approved for these partial abatements may receive an abatement of all local sales and use taxes, as well as the personal property taxes imposed on an aircraft and on the property used to own, operate, manufacture, service, maintain, test, repair, overhaul or assemble an aircraft or any component of an aircraft, for up to twenty (20) years.  Contact the LVGEA to learn more about this program.




Southern Nevada has three major United States Air Force installations

Nellis Air Force Base, a part of the United States Air Force’s Air Combat Command, is located approximately eight miles northeast of Las Vegas, Nev. The base itself covers more than 14,000 acres, while the total land area occupied by Nellis and its restricted ranges is about 5,000 square miles. An additional 7,700 miles of airspace north and east of the restricted ranges are also available for military flight operations.

Creech Air Force Base, about 35 miles north of Las Vegas, is home to the 432 Wing, which has six operational squadrons, one maintenance squadron, and MQ-9 Reapers and MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicles, which are central to the ongoing Global War on Terror. The base is also home to the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Battlelab.

Nevada Testing and Training Range (NTTR) is the largest contiguous air and ground space available for peacetime military operations in the free world. Annually, NTTR hosts large international training operations, including Red Flag and Green Flag.

The Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Program Management Office brings together a new team of educators, businesses and government entities. NIAS fosters learning and academic achievement by working with researchers, educators and industry leaders alike, creating a safe, fulfilling, and academically enriching climate for the future of UAS research and development.

Nevada Business Aviation Association brings together like-minded community leaders, and business, industry, education and government representatives who are interested in networking and advocating for education, economic development, and creation of highly-skilled, well-paying jobs in the Aviation, UAS, Defense and Aerospace industries in Nevada.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, nicknamed the “Harvard of the Sky,” is one of the world’s foremost aeronautical and technical colleges.  With main campuses in Daytona Beach, FL and Prescott, AZ, Embry-Riddle also has a satellite campus on the grounds of Nellis Air Force Base.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

When Nevada was selected by the FAA as one of six test ranges nationwide for unmanned aerial systems, Nevada’s university system stepped up research and workforce development for this exciting industry. UNLV hired renown unmanned systems expert Paul Oh from Drexel University, and with his team at the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering, he is building a robotics and unmanned systems lab at UNLV.

Desert Research Institute

Researchers at the Desert Research Institute (DRI) are exploring ways in which unmanned aircraft systems are increasingly being used in civilian government work as well as the private sector for use in applications as diverse as cloud seeding to fighting forest fires.  Learn more about UAS research at DRI by clicking here.


Based in North Las Vegas, NV, Unmanned Systems Inc. (USI) has been a leader in the UAS industry since 2003. For several years, USI has provided the Department of Defense with operational test & evaluation support for the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper platforms, but in recent years, the company has expanded to support the film, agriculture, and oil industry.

ArrowData is an innovative aerospace and data services company specializing in persistent data collection, transmission, analytics, and distribution. In partnership with Switch Supernap, ArrowData provides real-time, critical data services that enhance their clients’ ability to conduct a variety of operations, including journalism, entertainment, public safety, survey and training work.

Skyworks Aerial Systems “makes dronesmithing easy.” Founded by UNLV Engineering and Business School students, Skyworks Aerial Systems develops drone platforms for business and educational purposes.  Learn more about Skyworks Aerial Systems by visiting their website.


National Security Technologies

National Security Technologies, LLC (NSTec) was formed in 2006 as a joint venture between Northrop Grumman Corporation, and three other corporate partners. These partners are AECOM, CH2M Hill, and Babcock & Wilcox (B&W). With some 2,450 employees, NSTec manages operations at the 1,360-squaremile Nevada National Security Site, 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, and at its related facilities and laboratories for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), National Nuclear Security Administration, Nevada Site Office. The company has satellite offices in Los Alamos and Albuquerque, New Mexico; Santa Barbara and Livermore, California; and Washington, D.C., along with a small number of employees located in nine other states and two foreign countries.

Since 1999, Bigelow Aerospace has been developing affordable space destinations for national space agencies and corporate clients. In 2015, the company is poised to deploy the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) to the International Space Station on board the SpaceX CRS-8 mission. Bigelow’s first deployed modules, Genesis I and Genesis II, were deployed in 2006 and 2007 respectively. The habitat modules are still in orbit and providing valuable data for the company as it expands its product offerings.

Arcata Associates, Inc., established in 1979, is a Las Vegas-based aerospace / defense technical services company specializing in military test and training, aeronautical flight testing, and manned and unmanned space flight. Arcata provides SW/HW engineering, systems integration and operations and maintenance services to the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) and Fallon Naval Air Station where realistic combat aircrew training takes place during Red Flag and Top Gun exercises for the US Air Force, US Navy and Marine Corps. For over 20 years Arcata has supported NASA’s aeronautics, science, and space programs. Today, Arcata supports aeronautical research on unmanned aerial systems and experimental aircraft at Dryden Flight Research Center. For Johnson Space Center, Arcata is on the team to Design, Develop, Test and Evaluate Orion, NASA’s next generation space vehicle. At Marshall Space Flight Center, Arcata assists astronauts with their experiments on the International Space Station. At Stennis Space Center, Arcata furnishes IT and management support Agency-wide. Arcata is the only company to have been twice recognized by NASA as its Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year – 2008 and 2011.

JT3, a joint venture of Raytheon and AECOM, provides engineering and technical support to the four Department of Defense (DOD) test ranges in the western United States.  More than 1500 JT3 employees and team members help the DOD develop and test new and refined equipment, maintain testing and training environments, and train equipment operators on tactics that will make them successful in battle.