New York’s Drone Testing Corridor Finds New Partner in NASA

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the federal space agency would be joining in on the state’s unmanned aerial vehicle testing efforts.

by Samantha Madison, Observer-Dispatch / September 29, 2017
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(TNS) -- ROME, N.Y. — Moving the drone testing program in Rome forward even more, Gov. Andrew Cuomo Thursday announced that NASA is pairing with the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance (NUAIR).

The agreement supports the launch of the 50-mile Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) Corridor from Rome to Syracuse and creation of the National Unmanned Aerial System Standardized Testing and Rating facility (NUSTAR), said Cuomo during his fourth visit to Oneida County this year.

"With this groundbreaking partnership and our $30 million investment for the most advanced drone testing in the country, we are establishing Central New York and the Mohawk Valley as the premier destination for businesses at the forefront of innovation," Cuomo said in a hangar at Griffiss International Airport in Rome. "By investing in this cutting-edge technology, we are creating a pathway to grow the upstate economy and create good-paying, quality jobs in the industries of the future."

The development of the drone corridor is expected to unlock a trillion-dollar global industry and attract business development and new drone technology to the state, specifically in Central New York.

The agreement with NUAIR will be mutually beneficial in advancing unmanned aircraft system (UAS) traffic management technologies, which NASA said in a statement will "foster innovation and commercialization of this new aviation industry."

"Our collaboration will support deploying a UAS traffic management system in the UTM corridor and Test Site, and give NASA opportunities for testing to advance research and development in critical technologies such as communication, navigation, and large scale UAS traffic management," the statement said.

The announcement came during the official launch of the first phase of the UTM corridor, which should be completely finished by the end of 2018, said Lawrence Brinker, interim president and CEO of the NUAIR Alliance, after Cuomo's announcement.

The corridor uses a ground-based tracking system to unlock beyond-visual-line-of-sight commercial operations, including drone package deliveries and search and rescue operations. Thursday's event featured demonstrations of cybersecurity and search and rescue possibilities that can be opened up by the research being done at Griffiss International Airport.

"The successful launch of the drone corridor marks the first of its kind in the nation, sending an important message about our region's leadership, innovation and commercialization capabilities in this sector," Brinker said. "Through this project, the region is advancing detect-and-avoid technologies critical to integrating UAS into the nation's commercial airspace."

In 2013, Rome was chosen as one of six federal test sites for unmanned aircraft systems out of 50 applicants nationwide. As a result, today it "stands at the epicenter of the UAS industry," according to a news release from Sen. Charles Schumer's office.

"Today's agreement with NASA signals UAS research and testing will continue to soar and benefit key industries like railway and power line inspection, precision agriculture, package delivery and security applications, specifically surrounding airports," Schumer, D-N.Y., said in the release. "Agreements like this can make the region the Silicon Valley of unmanned systems advancements."

The opening of the corridor serves to showcase the innovation and opportunity available in Rome and the surrounding area, said Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr.

"Together with our partners in Syracuse, our Griffiss Test Site is solidifying the Mohawk Valley and Central New York corridor as the undisputed leader in UAS development," he said. "With the support of Gov. Cuomo and our agreement with NASA, the potential for technological advancement and economic development is limitless."

State Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, said the partnership with NASA will help create jobs and boost economic development in the region, which will "further strengthen" the Mohawk Valley's position as a leader in innovation and technology — a role Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, said the region has held "since the days of the Erie Canal."

Brindisi also highlighted the partnerships between industry and education locally, without which, he said, the drone industry would not be able to thrive here.

©2017 Observer-Dispatch, Utica, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.