- Associated Press - Sunday, November 6, 2016

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - Hundreds of drone enthusiasts will converge for a first-ever drone summit later this month at Spaceport America, a sign of the New Mexico facility’s effort to diversify its offerings.

Spaceport officials are hoping to attract between 500 and 1,000 participants and spectators for the three-day event, which starts Nov. 11.

“It’s a way to open our doors to those who wouldn’t normally interact with a live commercial spaceport,” Rosa Banuelos, spaceport business development manager, told the Las Cruces Sun-News (https://bit.ly/2ew37hI).

The spaceport authority hopes the event will not only be profitable, but the start of something that will grow year to year, Banuelos added.

The conference will include drone racing, a drone filmmaking contest and workshops, including one with Shaun Taylor of Albuquerque. Considered an ace drone-racing pilot, Taylor recently won the Drone Worlds championship in Hawaii. He believes drones are appealing to a mass audience, not just hobbyists.



Roughly 1.9 million small unmanned aerial vehicles or systems will be sold for hobbyist use this year nationwide, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Another 600,000 for professional purposes. The FAA believes 7 million drones will be sold in 2020.

Spaceport America is currently going through a change in leadership. Daniel Hicks, an engineer who had a senior management position at White Sands Missile Range, was named the new CEO in September. He replaces Christine Anderson, who resigned this summer after taking the helm in 2011.

Once a remote desert outpost, the spaceport stretches across 28 square miles of the Jornada del Norte desert basin north of Las Cruces. It now stands ready for anchor tenant Virgin Galactic and other companies working in the industry. No commercial flights have started yet out of the futuristic hangar. But there have been discussions with other major aerospace companies interested in using the area as a testing ground.

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Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News, https://www.lcsun-news.com

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