FAA’s drone decision may give Griffiss, region a lift

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Perhaps lost in the shuffle of this week’s news is a “small item” regarding the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to allow operators to fly small unmanned aerial systems (drones) over people and at night.

The ruling may be a dream come true for companies seeking commercial use of the machines. And, it is a testament to the work being done at Griffiss International Airport to advance the research, testing and application of drones.

The final rules announced this week by the Federal Aviation Administration “get us closer to the day when we will more routinely see drone operations such as the delivery of packages,” said FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson.

It also gets us closer to the potential expansion of the drone industry locally — which could yield important economic benefits not just for the Walmarts and Amazons of the world, which are poised to use drones to deliver goods to customers’ doorsteps but for those local companies that have worked diligently to advance the technology.

Drones are the fastest-growing segment in all of transportation, with more than 1.7 million under registration, according to the Transportation Department.

The new rules will require that drones used at night include flashing lights that can be seen up to three miles away. Operators will need special training. Small drones flying over people cannot have rotating parts capable of cutting skin.

The rules covering flights over people and at night will take effect in about two months. They finalize proposed rules issued last year.

All drones that must be registered with the FAA will be required to have equipment that broadcasts their identification, location and control station or be operated at FAA-recognized areas. Drone manufacturers will have 18 months to begin making drones with remote ID, and operators will have one year after that to start using drones with remote ID.

We applaud the foresight of local, state and federal officials, who helped to make Griffiss one of the few hubs of drone testing and technology in the world. We are hopeful that this FAA decision gives the local industry a key boost and, in turn, helps give the region as a whole a lift.

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