Major Progress Announced Toward Boosting New York Corridor Drone Industry

The New York Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site has secured approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly uncrewed aircraft systems – commonly referred to as drones – beyond visual line of sight across the entire 50 miles of airspace within New York’s Drone Corridor. This flight authority will give NUAIR, the uncrewed aircraft systems corridor operator, the ability to fly civilian drones from Syracuse International Airport to Griffiss International Airport in Rome without the need of visual observers. The FAA designation will help to unlock the full potential and economic advantage of commercial drone and advanced air mobility operations, including cargo and passenger transport via uncrewed aircraft.

“New York’s state-of-the-art drone corridor further cements the state’s position as the global leader in this evolving market for cutting-edge drone technology,” Governor Kathy Hochul said. “Through our continued investment and focus on drone corridor operations, we are strengthening and growing the regional economies in Central New York, the Mohawk Valley, and statewide for generations to come.”   

Governor Hochul also announced that the state will be providing NUAIR with an additional $21 million in CNY Rising Upstate Revitalization Initiative funding to cultivate the world leading UAS industry hub along the corridor in Central New York and the Mohawk Valley. The project will allow for critical infrastructure to be tested and deployed to enable advanced industry applications, state agency adoption of UAS, and associated workforce development.   

New York State’s uncrewed aircraft systems Test Site, owned by Oneida County, is one of only seven Federal Aviation Administration-designated uncrewed aircraft systems test sites in the nation. 

NUAIR already is assisting a multitude of state agencies to integrate drones into their operations including bridge and infrastructure inspections with the NYS Thruway Authority, environmental conservation with the NYS DEC and more. This extended FAA designation and additional funding will drive UAS industry innovation in New York State, allowing for the further development of cost-effective, and ecologically conscious drone operations that will supplement vital supply chains throughout New York State.   

The Governor also announced that NUAIR has entered into an agreement with Quebec-based VPorts, a world leader in the design, construction, and operation of Advanced Air Mobility infrastructure, to develop the first-in-the-nation international Advanced Air Mobility Corridor between Syracuse International Airport and Quebec, Canada. The corridor aims to build an ecosystem that will provide a platform for full commercial cargo transport operations using electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft or large, helicopter-sized drones.

NUAIR CEO Ken Stewart said, “Today marks a significant step for NUAIR and the state of New York, reaffirming its leadership in safely integrating drones into the national airspace and enabling the next phase of Advanced Air Mobility operations. This 50-mile corridor between Rome and Syracuse NY uniquely encompasses all the elements and infrastructure that are key for the commercialization of UAS applications such as inspections of transportation and utility infrastructure, medical logistics, environmental conservation, and public safety operations.”   

Syracuse Regional Airport Authority Executive Director Jason Terreri said, “Our vision is to be the leading commercial service airport in the United States for on-airport UAS/eVTOL operations, infrastructure support, and development. The timing of this announcement allows us to enhance our support of local UAS-focused initiatives and organizations including NUAIR, GENIUS NY, as well as many other multi-national companies based right here in Central New York. SYR also aspires to reconnect communities who have been previously cut off from economic opportunities due to a lack of traditional transportation infrastructure. Becoming a partner in creating the AAM corridor will allow underserved communities a new transportation alternative that will reconnect those communities and provide additional economic opportunities to its members.”       

VPorts President and Founder Dr. Fethi Chebil said, “The in-depth work NUAIR and their partners conducted as part of a recent NASA AAM task order gave us the confidence we needed to select NUAIR to take part in establishing the Québec-Syracuse international corridor, which will contribute to the development, integration, and social acceptability of Advanced Air Mobility. This initiative is in keeping with our ambition and vision to build and operate 1,500 vertiports around the world by 2045.”        

New York has worked to establish itself as the nation’s premier destination for drones and related UAS industry businesses in the Central New York and Mohawk Valley regions. Since 2016, the state has been making robust investments to supercharge the industry, including:

An initial investment of $35 million to develop the 50-mile UAS flight traffic management system; 

  • $9 million for Skydome, Oneida County’s indoor drone testing facility,
  • More than $25 million for five rounds of the GENIUS NY competition, a program administered by CenterState CEO’s Tech Garden in Syracuse that offers industry entrepreneurs incubator space, company resources, programming and mentoring with the condition that winners establish their operations in the region for at least one year; and
  • $16.6 million in ongoing investments for the Tech Garden’s expansion in downtown Syracuse to help grow its UAS industry efforts. 

New York’s ongoing investment in the targeted industry in Central New York and the Mohawk Valley have also led to private investment as well. In 2018, six companies, including two international firms, committed to creating opportunities in both regions following more than $6.2 million in various state support made available through the UAS Central Job Fund.    

Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, “Supporting the innovative technologies and emerging industries that are creating the jobs of tomorrow is at the heart of ESD’s mission. Working together with the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils, we are laser-focused on elevating the UAS industry in Central New York and the Mohawk Valley. This FAA designation represents yet another milestone in ensuring the UAS sector’s continued growth in New York State.”  

FAA Regional Administrator Marie Kennington-Gardiner said, “What NUAIR learns from its operations over Oneida Lake will help chart a path for routine beyond-line-of-sight drone operations across the country.”

Senator Chuck Schumer said, “The UAS Test Site I fought tooth and nail to secure at Griffiss International Airport has made the Mohawk Valley a critical hub of UAS innovation, advancing critical breakthroughs in cutting-edge tech, and supporting hundreds of good-paying jobs. Now, with this new FAA approval, New York’s state-of-the art drone campus will be flying higher than ever before. The sky is the limit for the innovation and economic potential coming out of the Mohawk Valley and I will always fight to help Oneida County reach new heights.”

Footage of Drone Corridor Flight Available Here