Officials pitch Rome drone site to Walmart, Amazon


For the second time in two years, Oneida County officials are trying to entice online commerce giant Amazon to Rome, and this time trying to lure Walmart, too.

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. and Rep. Anthony J. Brindisi, D-22, Utica, released a letter late Thursday they addressed to the heads of the two companies inviting them to test drone technology at the federally designated unmanned-aircraft proving grounds and test facility at Griffiss International Airport in Rome.

They cited news reports of approval by the Federal Aviation Administration in August of Amazon’s plans for a fleet of package-delivery drones. That followed approval of similar plans by UPS and the parent company of Google. Walmart announced this week it has begun delivering certain health and wellness merchandise with a drone near its corporate headquarters in Arkansas.

Picente pitched Amazon on locating a second headquarters in central New York two years ago, citing Griffiss, the former Air Force base with a long runway centrally located in the Northeast, and the adjacent business park. Amazon declined.

The Brindisi and Picente letters cite the county-owned test site with its array of radar and related instruments for monitoring unmanned flights used for proving the safety and reliability and performance of drones.

It’s also part of a 50-mile-long unmanned-aviation corridor that extends to Syracuse, a portion of which is approved for flying drones out of the line of the operator’s sight, crucial for package delivery.

They also note the presence of Rome Lab, and a state-supported $5 million grant available to help companies create jobs from commercializing drones and related aerospace industries.

“We believe that Oneida County’s UAS Test Site, Griffiss International Airport, and its elite personnel would afford unique capabilities to Amazon as you continue to develop the company’s drone capabilities and work to ensure they are able to safely integrate into the national airspace,” Brindisi and Picente said in their letters, separately to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Walmart CEO Doug McMillon.

“We strongly encourage you to consider our test site as future UAS testing needs arise for Amazon.”


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