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NUAIR Alliance, European firm partner on drone-research work

By Eric Reinhardt


Major General Marke F. (Hoot) Gibson (ret), CEO of the NUAIR Alliance (left), signs a partnership agreement with Marc Kegelaers, CEO of Unifly, providing “enhanced” unmanned traffic management (UTM) capabilities for the NY UAS test site’s 50-mile UTM corridor that’s currently under construction. (Photo provided by NUAIR Alliance)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance (NUAIR Alliance) and Griffiss International Airport on Tuesday announced a new partnership with Unifly as part of its drone-research efforts.

Unifly is an Antwerp, Belgium–based company with a software application that enables unmanned traffic management (UTM) systems to “visualize and manage” drone traffic in airspace.

Syracuse–based NUAIR Alliance is a nonprofit coalition of more than 200 private and public entities and academic institutions working together to operate and oversee unmanned aircraft system (UAS) testing in New York, Massachusetts, and Michigan. NUAIR supports the New York UAS test site at Griffiss International Airport in Rome.

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.

The partnership will provide “enhanced” unmanned traffic-management capabilities for the New York UAS test site’s 50-mile UTM corridor that’s currently under construction.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo had earlier announced that the state will spend $30 million to develop the 50-mile flight traffic-management system between Syracuse and Griffiss International Airport in Rome to advance the “burgeoning” unmanned-aircraft systems industry in Central New York as part of the CNY Rising initiative.

Unifly will establish a presence in Central New York to deploy its software platform and support traffic-management testing. Working with NUAIR, Unifly will enable enhancements to test beyond visual line of site (BVLOS) systems with the “ultimate goal” of safely integrating UAVs into the nation’s airspace.

“This new partnership will provide the critical tools needed for beyond visual line of site testing; capabilities not found at any other test site in the nation,” Major General Marke F. (Hoot) Gibson (ret), CEO of the NUAIR Alliance, said in the release. “It also shows that this region is able to lead the industry and attract partners from across the globe due to investments being made by New York state. We look forward to working with Unifly and deploying this industry-leading technology in coming months, and taking our capabilities to a new level.”

“Oneida County’s UAS test site at Griffiss International Airport is leading the nation in industry research and innovation,” Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, Jr. said in the NUAIR release. “The corridor between Rome and Syracuse continues to grow and establish the Mohawk Valley and Central New York as the epicenter for UAS development. Adding Unifly into that mix will further strengthen our position within the U.S. and throughout the world.”

About the software

Unifly’s software applications facilitate UAV traffic in “very low” altitude airspace. Its “innovative” tools inform operators where it is safe and legal to fly and enable authorities and other aviation stake-holders to track traffic and manage airspace.

It can inform users about the rules and situations, which are “often complex, in a user-friendly way.”

It also offers “validation” for a given flight and location. The system “parses” the underlying rules and real-time information to give the operator a “clear answer,” and it can notify official entities about flights and allow them to take action if required.

“This partnership presents a unique opportunity to share Unifly’s proven UTM technology and experience with NUAIR,” Marc Kegelaers, CEO of Unifly, said. “The safe integration of drones into the general airspace is a universal topic today. The NUAIR Operation Center is the first test site that has had the vision to include international partners in their global alliance to successfully tackle these global challenges.”

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