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New York’s Completed 50-Mile Drone Corridor: “Fly as Far as the Eye Can See, and then a Little More”

BY Isabella Lee
12 November 2019

Today, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the completion of the state-supported, 50-mile Unmanned Aircraft System Corridor, after three years of development and a $30 million state investment. The corridor runs from Central New York to the Mohawk Valley and is the most advanced drone testing corridor in the U.S.

Governor Cuomo Announces Completion of First-In-The-Nation 50-Mile Drone Corridor

In addition, Governor Cuomo also announced that an 8-mile segment of the corridor has been approved for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone operations, which includes the NUAIR New York UAS Test Site. This is the first “true” BVLOS authority granted to the Test Site, which allows unmanned aircraft testing without the need for ground-based observers.

Current regulations require operators to keep their drones in line of sight unless they have approval from the FAA. By receiving BVLOS flight approval, the UAS Test Site will no longer require those observers in the field.

Three years ago this region set forth an audacious goal to be the first in the nation to launch a beyond visual line of sight corridor and it is exciting to see that vision become reality.

— Robert Simpson, President and CEO, CenterState CEO

Obtaining Permission to Fly BVLOS

In order to obtain the approval, NUAIR and the Test Site had to prove to the FAA that the safety measures and technologies they put in place would make it safe to fly unmanned aircraft BVLOS.

Obtaining a waiver for the FAA is a notoriously lengthy process. According to government officials, it took about 14 months for the Test Site to gain approval.

NUAIR and the New York UAS Test Site were able to receive this BVLOS approval by showcasing the vast amount of high-tech equipment and safety technologies that have been established along with the flight data from over 2,500 UAS test flights they’ve conducted since operations began in 2015.

The Test Site has ground-based detect and avoid (GBDAA) systems capable of enabling BVLOS operations in airport terminal areas and in transition airspace. This is significant because the Test Site is a part of Griffiss International Airport. The airport has installed and activated a dedicated precision air traffic surveillance system to support the Test Site, which includes four capabilities:

Griffiss International Airport is working with NASA and the FAA on developing a UTM that can be utilized across the nation.

The ability to fly with this new authority will help develop and advance many aspects of an air traffic management system for unmanned aircraft.

—Michael Hetzendorf, CEO of NUAIR

Companies Invited to Test their UAS Systems at NY’s Completed Drone Corridor

With the needed infrastructure now in place, companies will be able to test both unmanned aerial systems platforms and UTM technologies in real-world settings. Companies can test their UAS technology at the UAS Corridor, taking advantage of USS support, simulation capabilities, secure data collection, and more by contacting NUAIR.

Many of the test flights that occur at the UAS Corridor will be used to inform regulators who are developing a framework to support the routine commercial use of drones in industries such as agriculture and forest management, transportation and logistics, media and film development, utilities and infrastructure, and public safety.

50 Mile Drone Corridor

Source: NUAIR

Additionally, in support of the growing drone industry in the region, NUAIR is launching the NY UAS Public Private Partnership Program (NYFLY), which is aimed at spurring the adoption of UAS technologies into state and local government operations. The first-in-the-nation competition will encourage and seed partnerships between public entities and firms to advance a series of priority use cases, including but not limited to:

  • First responders and public safety;
  • Infrastructure inspection and construction;
  • Counter UAS and critical infrastructure protection;
  • Forest and environmental monitoring;
  • Public Health; and,
  • Statewide UTM adoption and Urban Air Mobility (UAM) infrastructure.

NUAIR will open NYFLY to the first round of pilot project applications in early 2020. Additional details on NYFLY will be announced in the coming months.

Drones Bring Jobs to New York Thanks to Central NY Rising Program

More than 1,820 UAS-related jobs have been created or announced in New York, according to CenterState CEO reports.

The completion of the UAS Corridor builds on a $30 million investment announced by Governor Cuomo in November of 2016 to advance the growing drone industry as part of the Governor’s Central NY Rising initiative.

Central NY Rising is the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The State has already invested more than $5.6 billion in the region since 2012 to lay the groundwork for the plan — capitalizing on global market opportunities, strengthening entrepreneurship and creating an inclusive economy. Today, unemployment is down to the lowest levels since before the Great Recession; personal and corporate income taxes are down; and businesses are choosing places like Syracuse, Oswego and Auburn as a destination to grow and invest in.

As of today in Oneida County, you can fly unmanned aircraft as far as the eye can see — and then a little more. The FAA approval of an 8-mile flight corridor between the New York Test Site at Griffiss International Airport and the State Preparedness Training Center in Oriskany is a critical development which we believe will attract more research, testing, investment, and jobs to the region.

— Anthony Picente, Oneida County Executive

There are seven UAS Test Sites across the nation, but none as robust as New York’s newly completed corridor. What do you think of New York’s 50-mile drone corridor? Head over to our community forum to chime in.

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