New York Establishes Its Own Drone-Testing Corridor

Governor Andrew Cuomo is creating New York's first drone-testing area upstate.

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New York state has decided to establish a 50-mile drone-testing corridor over farmland in Rome, New York.

With every passing week, we see the drone industry increasing in size and economic value. Futurist Thomas Frey predicts that a billion drones will fill the skies by 2030

Already, police departments are looking toward drones to keep citizens safer. Mind-controlled drone fleets might become a reality sooner rather than later. The FAA just granted CNN a first-of-its-kind waiver to allow above-crowd drone flights. Drones are being used in utility inspection, agriculture, search and rescue, delivery, and more. 

According to the Associated Press, the aerial corridor in New York is a $30 million investment which will be confined mostly to overhead farmland extending from Griffis International Airport in Rome, New York, which is already being used by NASA for drone-related testing. The area will be fitted with radar and sensors on the ground, which Governor Andrew Cuomo claims will be “the most advanced drone testing in the country.” A bold statement, but not one entirely without merit.

The Associated Press reports that the first section of this corridor has already been in use since September for unmanned aircraft testing by the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance, which is comprised of private and public parties, as well as academic institutions from New York and Massachusetts. The plan is to essentially create an alluring test-bed area for all sorts of corporate and public entities to test and research drone-related systems such as air traffic management and safe UAV operation.

Griffis International Airport is the seventh FAA-designated test site for unmanned aircraft systems, with the others located in North Dakota, New Mexico, Virginia, Texas, Alaska, and Nevada, according to the AP. There’s a five-mile radius of permissible flight in New York’s new air corridor, due to the FAA’s beyond-line-of-sight restriction which requires the drone to be visible by the pilot. But NUAIR’s vice president of operations, Tony Basile, claims that “Clients will eventually be able to fly beyond the visual line of sight in the corridor testing their technology,” which includes NASA working on solidifying commercial drone regulations for the FAA.

According to the Associated Press, this new drone-testing corridor is a significant element of Gov. Cuomo’s $250 million pledge to kickstart the UAV industry via his "Upstate Revitalization Initiative," which also funded Gryphon Sensors’ $5 million project of equipping vans with radar in order to spot drones from as far as six miles away. The same company is responsible for the radar and ground-based sensors of NUAIR’s stretch of the corridor. 

Basile says it’ll take a year to complete the corridor. He adds, “Once technology has gotten to that point, the sensor systems used in this corridor will be repurposed to give additional coverage around airports or other places.” The last time we reported on a drone-testing corridor was UNICEF's initiative in Malawi, which resulted in Africa's first air corridor with a focus on transporting medications via UAV. It's great to see the drone industry grow in all sorts of areas, with New York's latest corridor seeming like a promising carrot for prospective clients to boost the local economy.