New York Makes Massive Public Investment in Drones

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York would be playing a substantial role in a one-of-a-kind drone testing corridor in the heart of central New York state.

The state of New York is pouring big money into making its central territory an international draw for unmanned aerial system (UAS) innovation. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Nov. 10 that $30 million in public funds would be applied toward the creation of a 50-mile-long research corridor to aid in the development of a UAS traffic management system and bolster the state’s standing as an innovation hub.

Under the plan, and through a partnership with New Air, a private-sector drone alliance, Cuomo said the corridor between Syracuse, N.Y., and Griffiss Air Force Base would serve as a research hub and draw for private companies operating in the UAS space. 

“Central New York, we believe, can be the capitol for unmanned aircraft,” he said. “We want to accelerate that and we want to use every resource we can to attract more companies, more talent in that area, and bring them to central New York.”

As it stands, the initiative is expected to be operational within the next two years, according to early estimates.

“We are going to invest $30 million of government money with that alliance to build a 50-mile airstrip between Syracuse and Griffiss [Air Force Base]. It would then be, we believe, one of the most sophisticated testing areas in the country,” Cuomo said. “We believe we can have it up and operational in 2018.”

Other states, like Ohio and Indiana, have also invested in their own UAS projects of late, but the New York project is believed to be unique in its overall scope and scale.

The governor compared the investment to the creation of the Erie Canal and likened its historic role in moving goods west to the state’s sizeable investment saying that it, too, would ultimately help to expedite job growth and prompt private-sector development. 

Though at the time, the canal project was criticized as an “act of madness” on the part of New York government, private industry eventually latched onto and improved what the state had cobbled together.

“It was that investment that opened up the canal," he said. "Goods came in then through the New York City Harbor, up the Hudson River, came through the Erie Canal, opened up access to the west, expedited the development of the entire country let alone the state of New York."

Cuomo also added that changes to state tax structure present additional incentive for new and existing businesses. Complaints about the competitiveness of New York have given way to programs like Start-Up New York, which waives 10 years of taxes to new businesses and what Cuomo cited as the lowest tax rate on record. 

“We believe in the potential of this industry. We believe that the number of applications are virtually unlimited. We believe that this is the future, and we are willing to put our money where our mouth is, as we say,” he said. “We think this is going to be a $1 trillion industry, and we invite you to come grow with us in this $1 trillion industry together.”

Eyragon Eidam is the Web editor for Government Technology magazine, after previously serving as assistant news editor and covering such topics as legislation, social media and public safety. He can be reached at