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Test, funds help spirits — and drones — soar

Charles Pritchard
Staff writer
email / twitter
Posted 10/20/22

From Syracuse Hancock International to Griffiss International Airport, NUAIR has completed its first 50-mile drone flight beyond line of sight.

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Test, funds help spirits — and drones — soar


ROME — From Syracuse Hancock International to Griffiss International Airport, NUAIR has completed its first 50-mile drone flight beyond line of sight — a huge step in drone development in Central New York, according to state and local officials.

At a press conference on Wednesday in the Skydome at the Griffiss Business and Technology Park, the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance, Inc. (NUAIR) landed its Supervolo electonic-VTOL drone at Griffiss International Airport, following the test’s site approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly uncrewed aircraft systems — commonly referred to as drones — beyond visual line of sight across the entire 50 miles of airspace within New York’s Drone Corridor.

The test site at Griffiss, owned by Oneida County, is one of only seven Federal Aviation Administration-designated uncrewed aircraft systems test sites in the nation.  

“New York’s state-of-the-art drone corridor further cements the state’s position as the global leader in this evolving market for cutting-edge drone technology,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “Through our continued investment and focus on drone corridor operations, we are strengthening and growing the regional economies in Central New York, the Mohawk Valley, and statewide for generations to come.” 

Hochul also announced that the state will be providing NUAIR with an additional $21 million in CNY Rising Upstate Revitalization Initiative funding to cultivate the world-leading UAS industry hub along the corridor in Central New York and the Mohawk Valley. The project will allow for critical infrastructure to be tested and deployed to enable advanced industry applications, state agency adoption of UAS, and associated workforce development.  

This flight authority will give NUAIR, the uncrewed aircraft systems corridor operator, the ability to fly civilian drones from Syracuse International Airport to Griffiss International Airport in Rome without the need of visual observers. The FAA designation will help to unlock the full potential and economic advantage of commercial drone and advanced air mobility operations, including cargo and passenger transport via uncrewed aircraft. 

“The UAS Test Site I fought tooth and nail to secure at Griffiss International Airport has made the Mohawk Valley a critical hub of UAS innovation, advancing critical breakthroughs in cutting-edge tech, and supporting hundreds of good-paying jobs,” said U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer. “Now, with this new FAA approval, New York’s state-of-the art drone campus will be flying higher than ever before. The sky is the limit for the innovation and economic potential coming out of the Mohawk Valley and I will always fight to help Oneida County reach new heights.” 

“This was a very historic flight,” Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente said. “This drone test site here in Oneida County and our work with NUAIR is very significant. We’re seeing the fruits of their labor. They continue to lead the nation in research, development, and innovation. It’s become the global model.”

Picente said NUAIR will further cultivate the drone corridor thanks to an additional $21 million in CNY Rising Upstate Revitalization Initiative funding.

Rome Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo said these kind of innovations and technological advancements were envisioned when Rome was selected as one of the FFA test sites. “But I think we’ve gone above and beyond,” Izzo added. “New York is far and away ahead of where the other test sites are. We were the first now to achieve beyond visual line of sight, which means we don’t need a person out there in the 50-mile corridor. Now we can test things like procuring cargo and getting from point a to point b.”

One of the practical applications Izzo is excited for is NUAIR’s commitment to assisting state agencies use drones in bridge and infrastructure inspections.

“They’ll be able to fly over and surveil bridges and highways. This will save so many man hours,” Izzo said. “So much groundwork has been laid and with this additional $21 million, the door is wide open to continue attracting drone companies that want to execute research and development or who want to fly and manufacture. You’re going to see a lot happening in the next five years with respect to the growth of this industry in Rome and along the corridor.”

“Today marks a significant step for NUAIR and the state of New York, reaffirming its leadership in safely integrating drones into the national airspace and enabling the next phase of Advanced Air Mobility operations,” said Ken Stewart NUAIR CEO. “This 50-mile corridor between Rome and Syracuse NY uniquely encompasses all the elements and infrastructure that are key for the commercialization of UAS applications such as inspections of transportation and utility infrastructure, medical logistics, environmental conservation, and public safety operations.”

Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, “Supporting the innovative technologies and emerging industries that are creating the jobs of tomorrow is at the heart of ESD’s mission. Working together with the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils, we are laser-focused on elevating the UAS industry in Central New York and the Mohawk Valley. This FAA designation represents yet another milestone in ensuring the UAS sector’s continued growth in New York State.”

State Sen. Rachel May, D-53, Syracuse, said, “It is always exciting to see the expansion of new opportunities in Central New York’s Drone Corridor. The FAA’s approval to operate uncrewed aircraft systems beyond visual line of sight enables our area to attract and retain businesses and continue the economic growth we’ve seen over the past several years. Thank you, Governor Hochul, for your continued support and the $21 million in state funding for several UAS projects at NUAIR, which will further cement our region as a leader in the industry.”

State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-47, Rome, said, “I am pleased that the Federal Aviation Administration has approved a beyond visual line of sight designation for the drone corridor between Syracuse International Airport and the Griffiss International Airport in Rome. This designation, along with funding from the CNY Rising Upstate Revitalization Initiative, will cultivate and enhance UAS and drone-related technology in the Mohawk Valley and Central New York.”

Assemblymember Marianne Buttenschon, D-199, Marcy added, “Griffiss Business Park continues to grow and this is another great example of its growth. I want to the thank the Governor, members of the Empire State Development team, and the Oneida County leadership for the continued support in advancing technology to keep our communities safe while promoting economic development.”


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