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Governor proposes $9M drone test facility at Griffiss Airport

By Eric Reinhardt


Gov. Andrew Cuomo would like to establish a $9 million small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) experimentation and test facility at Griffiss International Airport in Rome. 

Cuomo’s idea is the 23rd proposal of his 2020 State of the State agenda. The governor delivered his annual address on Jan. 8. 

A UAS includes a drone and equipment used to control its flight. A drone is also referred to in the industry as an unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV.

This “skydome” will be a year-round, indoor sUAS research facility that will support the “safe experimentation” of drone technology and techniques. That would include secure command and control; vehicle-to-vehicle communication; autonomy, sense-and-avoid, and other techniques that will enable applications such as emergency-management services, damage assessment, and recovery search and rescue. 

This project would turn an unoccupied hanger at Griffiss into a “one-of-a-kind” research and test facility. The indoor facility would support collaborative efforts between the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate and the NY UAS test site, “leveraging the region’s high-tech commercial and academic ecosystem and supporting the development of technologies for sUAS to operate safely and securely in the national air space,” Cuomo’s office said.

Over the past year, Cuomo has announced several advancements including the completion of the “first in the nation,” 50-mile unmanned traffic management drone corridor, which runs from Central New York to the Mohawk Valley.

He also announced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval for portions of the corridor to fly unmanned aircraft with beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) technology. 

It represents the first “true” BVLOS authority granted to the FAA-designated test site which allows unmanned aircraft testing without the need for ground-based observers. 

The eight-by-four-mile section of airspace that was approved for these flights is between Griffiss International Airport and the New York State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services State Preparedness Training Center in Oriskany.       

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