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New York Airport Gets Federal Drone Testing Extension

The passage of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act will allow for continued testing of unmanned aircraft at Griffiss International Airport until 2023.

(TNS) — ROME, N.Y. — With the passage of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act in Congress, Griffiss International Airport's designation as an unmanned aircraft systems test site has been extended.

The designation was set to expire next year, but the passage of the bill allows drone research and development to continue until 2023 at the Rome site, as well as six others across the country.

The extension will ensure that the New York UAS Test Site at Griffiss remains at the forefront of public policy development, commercialization and safe integration of UAS into the global airspace, according to a news release from Sen. Charles Schumer.

Since the New York Test Site's inception in 2014, it has worked with more than 200 partners to advance UAS research and accelerate industry economic development in the region, he said.

"With this critical test site extension at Griffiss, we have delivered to NUAIR and Oneida County another critical win to keep it at the cutting edge of this new technology," Schumer said in the release. "In just a few years, the New York Test Site has brought droves of clients to Griffiss, from global corporations and premier academic institutions to partners in government like the FBI, NASA, and FAA. All of which are choosing New York to test technologies that will safely and efficiently integrate UAS into the national airspace."

Chad Lawrence, aviation commissioner at the Oneida County Griffiss International Airport, said it's good for the research and the region for the test site to be extended.

Progress has been good so far and the goal is to continue building on the research that has been completed at the test site and help integrate drones into the national air space.

"It's good to work with all the partners on the park, as well, because they're doing a lot of work in this area and a lot of research, so we're tying to get everyone together to work toward one common goal," he said. "(The drone research) has tied a lot of local, state and federal entities together, as well as private-public partnerships that are starting to thrive. Ultimately, we'll drive innovation which will bring jobs."

In response to challenges faced by the UAS industry, the FAA assigned a topic for each site to focus on.

For Griffiss and NUAIR Alliance, they are tasked with concentrating on the UAS industry's inability to comply with "see and avoid" flight requirements because of the lack of an on-board pilot — flying beyond visual line of sight.

The research and development in Rome has encouraged a lot of local, state, federal and private investment that has allowed NUAIR Alliance to make progress on that challenge.

That work, along with the developing drone corridor between Rome and Syracuse, have positioned Griffiss as a leading test site for the emerging industry, Lawrence said.

"All of us have worked very hard to be able to do this," he said. "We've been implementing certain technologies to drive growth. We want to build jobs here in the Mohawk Valley and in Central New York and NUAIR has been a great partner of ours and we look to continue the research. ... We want to continue to drive the innovation and ultimately to provide workforce to our local people."

Continuing that development, Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced that New York's ongoing investment in the growing drone industry in Central New York and the Mohawk Valley is expected to create at least 200 local jobs and $39.5 million in private investments.

Six companies — including two international firms — have committed to creating opportunities in both regions following the state's $30 million investment to support and develop the nation's first-of-its-kind 50-mile flight traffic management system located between Syracuse and Griffiss International Airport in Rome.

The Empire State Development Board of Directors also recently signed off on $10 million in additional funding for rounds four and five of the innovative GENIUS NY business accelerator, the World's Largest Unmanned Aircraft Systems Competition. The competition takes place in Syracuse.

"New York's investment in the unmanned aerial systems industry has transformed Central New York and the Mohawk Valley into global leaders in this cutting-edge technology, creating jobs and boosting local economies," Cuomo said in a news release. "We will continue to support these innovative companies as they help to grow the drone corridor and strengthen these regions for generations to come."

©2018 Observer-Dispatch, Utica, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.