Dignitaries, including Gov. Brian Sandoval, U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, were present Friday when the orange aircraft dubbed Magpie was launched by hand, flew about 10 feet and then went down nose-first into the desert floor.
Officials said the drone was not damaged, but they didn't try to fly it again during the ceremony.
The testing agency, Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, is the first in the nation with FAA approval to issue airworthiness certificates on its own.
Nevada is one of six states chosen as national test sites as the FAA develops drone regulations.