The Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance (NUAIR), a coalition of private and public entities and academic institutions in New York and Massachusetts. is creating the most advanced airspace corridor in the country, right here in the state of New York. The 50-mile corridor will be used for drone safety and performance testing as well as the development of drone traffic management systems so that one day the FAA may allow drones to fly beyond line-of-sight.

DJI Inspire 2

The Griffiss drone testing facility

The airspace is centered around Griffiss International Airport, a former Air Force base in Rome, NY that is already a NASA-affiliated drone testing facility. The airport is one of seven Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) designated testing sites for unmanned aerial vehicles. The other six test sites are in Virginia, North Dakota, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, and Alaska. It will be equipped with radar and ground-based sensors to enable what Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo boasted would be:

“the most advanced drone testing in the country.”

The first part of the designated airspace was created last month by the NUAIR coalition and is limited to a five-mile radius by the FAA. Companies will be able to use the corridor to test their drone and software systems. Part of the concept is that the testing will help the FAA craft the rules and regulations that eventually will allow opening the national airspace to commercial drone activities.  Amazon and Walmart can’t wait for that day to come.

“Clients will eventually be able to fly beyond the visual line of sight in the corridor testing their technology,” said Tony Basile, NUAIR’s vice president for operations.

Apart from testing, the facilities can also be used for demonstration purposes and training ground for drone pilots, such as forest rangers, law enforcement, and others.

“We’re evaluating aircraft today, but the ultimate goal is, how do we operate in a beyond-line-of-sight capability,”

said Glen Davis, safety director of AIROS, a General Electric venture company that was at Griffiss this week to test a 6-foot-(1.8-meter) long unmanned helicopter for pipeline and refinery inspections as reported by the Denver Post.

Cuomo has officially pledged up to $250 million as part of his Upstate Revitalization Initiative to facilitate the growth of the unmanned aerial vehicle industry. It is expected that the Griffiss drone research corridor will help to bring tech companies to central New York.

Photo: Mike Busutil of Navmar Applied Sciences Corporation prepares to do flight tests with a Tigershark drone at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, N.Y. on Oct. 17, 2017. New York state is investing $30 million to create a 50-mile drone-testing corridor between Rome and Syracuse. Photo credit: Mary Esch, The Associated Press

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