Officials unveil new $13M Skydome
ROME — “The sky is no longer the limit in the Mohawk Valley and it’s high time everyone knew it.”
Those were the words of Griffiss Institute President and CEO Heather Hage before a special “unmanned” ribbon cutting of the new $13 million Skydome — the nation’s largest indoor Unmanned Aircraft Systems testing center not only in New York or in the nation, but in the world — located at Griffiss Park.
Skydome brings a total state and county investment of more than $100 million, establishing New York and the Mohawk Valley in the position of global leader in UAS.
Previous to Hage’s closing remarks made just before dignitaries cut the gold ribbon on the new facility, held by two small drones overhead, Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. described the event as “another milestone in Oneida County.”
“Like the Wolfspeed chip fab, and the soon-to-be completed MVHS Wynn Hospital and Nexus Center sports complex, the opening of Skydome is another transformational project that will spur new jobs and investment in Oneida County, and further demonstrates why we have one of the most robust and diverse economies in the Northeast,” said Picente. “From its inception, this ambitious county project set out to solidify Oneida County and New York as the global epicenter for drone research and development and with today’s Skydome opening, we have done just that.”
Picente described how the hangar that is now home to Skydome was built in 1942 during World War II, in the fight that set forth the freedoms for this country today. Generations later, the hangar is now the epicenter for new innovative technology that will be a vehicle for growth and development in the region, bringing an even “brighter future” to Oneida County, he said.
Empire State Development President and CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said UAS technology has the potential to unlock new avenues of economic growth in areas such as public safety and E-commerce, and the state’s forward-thinking investments in the industry has attracted significant investment from both the public and private sectors.
“Skydome is the latest transformational project that will drive industry growth and innovation in the Mohawk Valley for generations to come,” said Knight.
“This represents another win for the Mohawk Valley to be recognized as a global power in the industry,” Knight said.
Skydome will support collaborative efforts between the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate and the New York UAS Test Site, leveraging the region’s high tech commercial and academic ecosystem, supporting the development of technologies for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems to operate safely and securely in the National Air Space.
“With the completion of Skydome, New York State is now home to the largest indoor Anechoic Chambered Unmanned Aerial Vehicle experimentation facility in the United States, and will provide year-round, indoor testing of advanced drone technologies, including artificial intelligence-based flight controls and autonomous swarms of small drones,” Knight said.
The $13 million project created and developed by Oneida County, was funded by $4 million from the county, and supported by the state through a $4.5 million grant from the CNY Rising Upstate Revitalization Initiative and $4.5 million grant from the Mohawk Valley Upstate Revitalization Initiative. State Senator Joseph A. Griffo, R-47, Rome, has also secured a $950,000 grant for the facility.
“I am pleased that the Skydome facility in the Griffiss Business and Technology Park in Rome has been completed and to have secured funding for this project,” Griffo said. “This cutting-edge and innovative indoor space will enhance the development of Unmanned Aircraft Systems and related technologies and build upon the significant and important collaboration taking place every day here in the Mohawk Valley.”
Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon, D-119, Marcy, said the completion of the Skydome site further solidifies that this region and community are becoming an emerging force in innovation and technology fields internationally.
“This project is a testament to our investment in the Mohawk Valley to make it a premiere destination for UAS test sites, drones, and technological businesses,” said Buttenschon. “The continuation of growth at the Griffiss Business and Technology Park is extraordinary and has been a driving force in the economic development in Oneida County.”
Rome Research Laboratory Commander Col. Fred E. Garcia II said he was “overwhelmed” by the efforts made through partnerships between lab officials and local representatives in Upstate New York that made Skydome possible.
Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo said the official opening of Skydome marked a significant accomplishment for Oneida County, the City of Rome, the New York UAS test site and the Air Force Research Laboratory.
“With the commitment of Governor (Kathy) Hochul and the State of New York, the completion of the $13 million Skydome test area reinforces our dedication to providing the very best FAA UAS test facility in the nation,” said Izzo. “We look forward to welcoming UAS research specialists and their teams from all over the country and the world to Skydome as they continue the research necessary to integrate the drones into the fabric of every-day air travel such as testing the transportation of vital lifesaving medical supplies, assisting in natural disasters and much more with the enhanced testing capabilities available at Skydome.”
Izzo also highlighted the growth of Griffiss Business and Technology Park not just in businesses, but as a community, noting housing developments like Air City Lofts and the nearby Woodhaven community to encourage people to not only come work, but also live in Rome. She also added that the technology park would soon be the new home of the Rome Family YMCA.
The Skydome test site is part of the ever-growing 3,500-acre Griffiss Business and Technology Park, the former Griffiss Air Force Base, which is now home to a multitude of high-tech, world-leading companies in cyber security, quantum computing, manufacturing among others that employs nearly 6,000.
Skydome is the latest infrastructure investment at Griffiss International Airport that has been made by Oneida County. In 2019, the county invested $15.5 million to replace antiquated central steam heat in the hangars with new radiant heating dramatically changing the cost structure and making the facilities cost-competitive.
At the same time, the county invested another $5.6 million in creating the Innovare Advancement Center, which is leading the way in helping to foster a high-tech ecosystem in support of the Air Force Research Lab and the UAS Test Site.
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