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More Growth for the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Industry in CNY

Robert Simpson Business MentorFive years ago, several of our CenterState CEO members — including SRC, Saab, and Lockheed Martin — played a leadership role in securing a federal designation for our region to manage one of seven national unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test sites. That leadership and foresight has translated into one of the most exciting opportunities for our region in decades — to excel in the unmanned systems industry. Today, the very companies that championed this opportunity are growing, announcing major investments and new jobs in Central New York.

Last month, Saab Defense and Security USA announced it will move its headquarters from Virginia to DeWitt, creating 260 jobs over five years and more than doubling its current local workforce. 

Likewise, SRC plans to hire 50 engineers following its announcement of a $65 million contract with the U.S. Army to develop a system to detect and defeat small drones. Also, Lockheed Martin recently hosted a job fair to recruit up to 100 new employees to support a $27.8 million Army contract to upgrade its radar system to detect unmanned aerial vehicles. And, we currently have conversations underway with more than 150 companies from all over the world and across industries, who are considering making investments in our region..


These investments further validate the work of our past regional strategic-planning efforts in collaboration with the Brookings Institution, which highlighted the region’s legacy expertise in the fields of sensing technology, analytics, and security, and stressed the opportunity to solidify the region’s global leadership position in these sectors.

As we’ve continued to build on this embedded regional expertise, we’ve see increased demand at the NUAIR-managed test site in Rome, where 645 test flights were conducted in the last year alone — a 10-fold increase from the year before. The state is also investing $30 million to create a 50-mile corridor between Syracuse and Rome — the world’s largest, live-scale test bed for unmanned aerial systems, to be coordinated by the NUAIR Alliance. 

And GENIUS NY, the world’s largest unmanned systems accelerator, is bringing together six of the most promising startups in this field for a yearlong program at The Tech Garden.

We are excited to be part of the efforts to advance investments and grow next-generation companies in this global market. To learn how your businesses can capitalize on this growing industry, contact Mike Novakowski, CenterState’s director of business development, at:           

Robert M. (Rob) Simpson is president and CEO of CenterState CEO, the primary economic-development organization for Central New York. This column is drawn and edited from the “CEO Focus” email newsletter that the organization sent to members on Feb. 2.