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Picente, Brindisi question federal decision on drone pilot program

By Charles McChesney


UTICA, N.Y. — Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, Jr. and Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi have written U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao demanding an explanation for why a proposal from New York state, Amazon and partners in Central New York was not accepted as part of the department’s drone integration pilot program.

“It boggles the mind as to why the feds have failed to include Griffiss or any Northeast test site on this national pilot,” Brindisi said in a news release sharing the letter. Brindisi is running for Congress in the 22nd Congressional District.

“I am writing to express my complete disappointment that the proposal from New York State, Oneida County, Amazon and other partners for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program was denied,” Picente wrote in his letter to Chao. “Since our application was strong, I’m left to believe this decision must have been unduly tainted by politics instead of being based on merit. I must agree with Congressman John Katko when he calls this decision ‘confounding.’ “

Griffiss Business and Technology Park has been a hotbed of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) work. It is one of seven test sites sanctioned by the Federal Aviation Administration and an anchor for a 50-mile corridor that allows drones to fly beyond line of sight.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced May 9 that 10 applicants had been selected for the Unmanned Aircraft Integration Pilot Program from among 149 applicants. Those chosen include the City of San Diego, California; the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma; and state departments of transportation in Kansas, North Carolina, and North Dakota.

Among the goals of the pilot program is to identify how to balance local and national concerns regarding UAS integration and accelerating approvals for operations that currently require special authorizations.

Contact McChesney at

Photo credit: BJNN file photo of drone by Eric Reinhardt

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