On September 29th New York State officials announced the launch of an initiative aimed at building a corridor for drone testing between Syracuse and Rome, NY. The announcement came as a follow-up to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $500M Central New York Revitalization Program announced in December 1015 and includes $30M to build the corridor.

"If you are interested in this industry, this is the place to be," said Gov. Cuomo promoting the Central region of his state as a pioneer in the research and development of new UAV technologies and the promotion and growth of the UAV industry.

Local companies such as Gryphon Sensors LLC of North Syracuse are a key part of the development of the corridor and the implementation of the technologies that would allow manufacturers test their products and services when flying beyond visual line of site (BVLOS) in concert with state and federal agencies. We’ve talked with Gryphon Systems leadership about what it will mean to enable BVLOS within a UTM system, and it’s a goal they’re continuing to pursue in powerful ways.

NUAIR, the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Alliance, is heavily invested in attracting as many new and established drone companies to the area in an effort to create a regional center of excellence in all things UAV. One notable NUAIR initiative is the UAS Secure Autonomous Flight Environment, or U-SAFE, which is a New York State funded program which helps accelerate the integration of low-altitude, small UAV’s into the National Airspace System. It is forecasted that over the next five years the U-SAFE initiative will attract key stakeholders in government, academia and industry to Central New York as the latter deploy, test and validate their UAS Traffic Management (UTM) infrastructure, safe systems and universal standards proposals for the emerging drone sector.

Craig Marcinkowski, a member of the council and director of Business Development for Gryphon Sensors, said that U-SAFE would bring NASA and the FAA together to work in conjunction with private industry to move forward the goal of a safe integration on manned and unmanned aircraft in controlled airspace. NUAIR officially activated the corridor by flying a manned aircraft and a small drone in controlled airspace over and around Griffiss International Airport in Rome, NY.

Another interesting initiative is the implementation of NASA’s NU-STAR, the National Unmanned Aerial System Standardized Testing and Rating in order to help private companies to develop and test locally their products and receive certification under the official program. Robert Simpson, President of Centerstate Corporation for Economic Opportunity, said that sites for the testing facilities have not been selected as of yet, but would be located somewhere along the corridor.

Initiatives in which local, state and federal agencies come together to establish centers of excellence for industry to interact with the regulators and academia are an encouraging sign that all stakeholders are actively working on a safe solution to the imminent integration of manned and unmanned vehicles over controlled airspace. We’re looking forward to seeing an expansion of Part 107 to include BVLOS, and developments like these are what will drive that expansion.