NASA, NUAIR Partner To Grow Central New York Drone Industry

NASA will serve as an advisor in the development of a drone corridor and other unmanned aerial systems projects in New York State.

NASA and the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance (NUAIR) have formed a groundbreaking agreement to grow the drone industry in Central New York and the Mohawk Valley. The agreement formalizes a partnership in support of two elements of the state’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) strategy: the launch of the world’s first 50-mile Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) Corridor and creation of NUSTAR, the most comprehensive UAS test facility in the nation.

drone industry
(Photo: New York State)

The announcement was made prior to a demonstration of the first phase of the UTM Corridor in operation, a breakthrough infrastructure asset intending to unlock beyond-visual-line-of-sight commercial operations. That exhibition highlighted the state’s commitment to the burgeoning industry and what has become the most advanced drone testing corridor in the nation.

“With this groundbreaking partnership and our $30 million investment for the most advanced drone testing in the country, we are establishing Central New York and the Mohawk Valley as the premiere destination for businesses at the forefront of innovation,” said Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. “By investing in this cutting-edge technology, we are creating a pathway to grow the upstate economy and create good-paying, quality jobs in the industries of the future.”

“NASA’s agreement with NUAIR will provide mutual benefit in advancing UAS traffic management technologies that will foster innovation and commercialization of this new aviation industry,” NASA stated. “Our collaboration will support deploying a UAS traffic management system in the UTM corridor and Test Site, and give NASA opportunities for testing to advance research and development in critical technologies such as communication, navigation, and large scale UAS traffic management.”

“The successful launch of the drone corridor marks the first of its kind in the nation, sending an important message about our region’s leadership, innovation and commercialization capabilities in this sector,” said Lawrence H. Brinker, interim President and CEO of the NUAIR Alliance. “Further coupled with the investments made by New York state, the region is positioned to be the single best place for the research and development associated with growing the UAS sector.”

The development of the drone corridor is expected to unlock a trillion-dollar global industry and attract businesses and new drone technology to the state, specifically in Central New York. There are nearly 200 companies from across the world exploring investment opportunities in the region. Regionally-based SRC Incorporated plans to initially 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. Additionally, the company plans to add up to 1,000 new hires over the next five years thanks in large part to the state’s investment in the UAS industry.

“SRC is pleased that the Governor has shown such a commitment to supporting the unmanned systems sector locally,” said Paul Tremont, President and CEO of SRC. “Because of this support, the efforts of CNY Rising and the national demand for UAS related systems, SRC enterprise plans to add 1,000 jobs in the next five years. Counter-UAS requirements are creating opportunities contributing to Central New York’s unprecedented growth and accelerating its role as a leader in this technology.”

In the past year, 645 test flights were conducted at the NUAIR-managed test site in Rome, a tenfold increase from the year before. In 2016, Empire State Development invested $30 million in the 50-mile drone test corridor between Syracuse and Rome in the form of a CNY Rising Upstate Revitalization Initiative Grant. Governor Cuomo has also invested $10 million in GENIUS NY, one of the world’s largest business competitions focused on unmanned systems, cross-connected platforms and other technology-based sectors. In 2015, as part of the round four CFA, the state invested $4 million to install state-of-the-art surveillance and airport surface radar equipment at Griffiss Airport.

New York State also made a related $5 million URI investment in Gryphon Sensors, a company based in Central New York. Gryphon Sensors has developed a state-of-the-art mobile Unmanned Traffic Management system called Mobile Skylight, which provides three dimensional detection of low-flying, small, UAS at a distance of out to 10 kilometers. The unit is a complete mobile command center featuring 4×4 off-road capability that can be taken anywhere without a commercial driver’s license and is for rapid deployment for a wide range of applications, including stadium, special event security, first responder and search and rescue operations as well as infrastructure and utility inspection.

“Gryphon Sensors is honored to be leading Phase I of Project U-SAFE with a team of exceptional local industry that is bringing UAS Traffic Management to life,” said Anthony Albanese, President of Gryphon Sensors. “Thanks to New York State’s unprecedented and visionary investment in UAS infrastructure, Central New York and the Mohawk Valley region will have the most advanced infrastructure in the world to conduct UAS testing and commercial beyond visual line of sight operations.”

Local educational institutions are also working to further drone industry efforts in the region. Both Syracuse University and Mohawk Valley Community College have aligned training curriculum and research efforts around the growing needs of this sector. New York State is also sponsoring Round Two of the GENIUS NY program in the region; one of the largest startup business accelerator programs in the world that caters to business proposals in the categories of Unmanned Systems and Data to Decisions Applications.

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