Iris Automation Recognized for Aviation Excellence, Gives Back to Reno

Jun 10, 2021

by Mark Genung, VP of Operations at Iris Automation

We’re thrilled to announce that Nevada’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (NCET) recently named Iris Automation the 2021 winner of “Aerospace Company of the Year” in their annual NCET Tech Awards. This is another huge honor from NCET following our Director of Flight Operations, Cheryl Contreras, winning the “Rising Star – Technical Services” category in 2020. 

The Aerospace Company of the Year Award category reads:

Presented to the company that demonstrates technological innovation in aerospace or aviation and which achieves significant sales/revenue growth and employee growth. Special consideration will be given to companies that demonstrate significant patent, R&D and IP activity, as well as active participation in industry activities such as standards setting, advocacy and education.

We’d like to take this opportunity to speak to our involvement in the local Reno community, where Iris Automation is headquartered, and is where most of our team lives, works, and plays. In 2017, Iris was invited by the City of Reno and the Innevation Center to establish a business presence in Reno. We started with three pilots for manned and unmanned aircraft, and in the intervening years have added over twenty employees across multiple departments. We have always appreciated how Reno embraced Iris Automation as a small and still growing startup. Our team has not forgotten that, and we think it’s important to nurture and foster innovation and education. Here are some of the things that we’ve done to pay it forward.

Furthering Innovation in Reno

Iris Automation proudly partnered with the City of Reno to participate in the FAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Pilot Project and BEYOND Programs. Reno is one of only eight sites in the United States selected to test sUAS aviation technology under these programs, and we were one of the original business partners that were with Mayor Hillary Schieve in City Hall when Reno’s selection was formally announced by the US Department of Transportation. We conducted a live demonstration of our Casia® onboard Detect-and-Avoid (DAA) system for the City of Reno Fire Department to illustrate how drones can safely assist in crucial river search-and-rescue missions.

We’ve also worked closely with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) to promote out-of-area UAS companies to move to Reno and Northern Nevada. Additionally, we’ve supported the Innevation Center by hosting tours for international and out-of-state companies considering moving to Reno and joining the local business community. Iris Automation’s Casia technology was flown by industry partners in the NIAS and NASA Drone Traffic Management Testing in downtown Reno in 2019. 

Iris Automation’s Flight Operations team celebrating a successful day of product testing in the desert outside of Reno.

Youth Engagement

Our pilots have conducted online seminars for high school students to inspire them to become commercial UAS pilots. These “day in the life” of a drone pilot webinars were exceptionally well received by students who were unaware of the opportunities in the UAS industry. Iris Automation actively seeks to recruit University of Nevada Reno graduates by participating in UNR Career Fairs. This enables UNR graduates to access high technology professions without leaving Nevada.

Co-founder James Howard and then-Recruitment Lead Anita Sham at a UNR Career Fair in 2019

We’ve hosted multiple tours at the Innevation Center for a diverse array of high school students learning about STEM careers in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems industry. 

Director of Flight Operations Cheryl Contreras hosting high school students at the Innevation Center

I am very proud of our partnerships and participation with the local Reno community, including the countless ways that individuals on our team contribute to the community outside of their official work with Iris Automation. Now that the pandemic is on the ebb, we are looking forward to being even more engaged.

On behalf of the Iris Automation team, I would like to pass on our sincerest thanks to Bryan McArdle at EDAWN for the nomination!