Doubling down on drones

salariesRepresentatives from the public and private sector gathered at Reno-Stead Airport on a chilly February morning, all eyes focused on a small plane.

At a little under 5 feet long, the glossy white plane looks almost like a toy. For the Silver State, however, unmanned aerial vehicles are no game.

With an annual global market valued at $11.3 billion, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International expects unmanned aerial systems — also known as drones — to grow into a $140 billion industry within the next decade. During the first three quarters of 2013, investors poured $40.9 million into drone startups, more than double the amount invested during all of last year, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.

For a state eager to rebound from the recession and diversify its economy, the potential financial windfall from the industry is a big opportunity. Just how big an economic…

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