New York UAS test site granted new civil flight authority

By NUAIR | April 14, 2023

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. recently announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted the New York Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS) Test Site at Griffiss International Airport new civil authority to advance the research, development, and commercialization of UAS (drone) operations. The test site can now operate drones weighing under 300 pounds throughout New York’s 50-mile drone corridor and be compensated for operations. The New York UAS Test Site is one of seven FAA-designated test sites in the country and the FAA found that New York has the necessary infrastructure in place to support safe UAS operations under civil authority.

“This new FAA designation removes some previous restrictions making it easier to test larger drones,” Picente said. “Our test site is already the global leader for UAS research and development, and now, we will be able to test more advanced operations and be financially compensated for it. This is great news for Oneida County, our partners at the Test Site and for the businesses and agencies who use our facility to advance the industry.”

The test site has been operating under a different authority called public aircraft operations (PAO) for the last decade for research and development and other core governmental functions. The new civil authority (Waiver 44803c) “Charlie Waiver” covers New York’s 50-mile beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) UAS corridor connecting Griffiss and Syracuse Hancock International airports, opening the door for scalable, commercial operations.

“NUAIR is focused on unlocking the drone economy for the state of New York,” said NUAIR CEO Ken Stewart. “This new civil authority will help draw more clients to the Test Site who are focused on commercial outcomes, and we look forward to helping them scale their operations.”

New York’s 50-mile UAS Corridor covers class G, E, D, and C airspace and is integrated with the air traffic control towers of both Griffiss and Syracuse Hancock International Airports, safely allowing both crewed and uncrewed aircraft to share airspace. The corridor draws global companies to the region to develop their UAS and advanced air mobility (AAM) operations.

“Commercial drones have so many societal benefits – from enhancing national security, to promoting efficiencies in the broader marketplace,” said Lisa Ellman, partner at Hogan Lovells LLP and Executive Director of the Commercial Drone Alliance (CDA). “Issuance of this new authority to the New York UAS Test Site not only bodes well for New York, but also helps accelerate the UAS and AAM industries as a whole.”

NUAIR manages the New York UAS Test Site on behalf of Oneida County, has conducted over 5,000 test flights over the past decade and completed multiple projects with the FAA and NASA to advancethe UAS and AAM industries. This new waiver, combined with Central New York’s Tech Cluster – a culmination of like-minded organizations working together to advance the latest UAS and internet of things (IoT) technologies for the economic vitality of Central New York, further positions New York as the prime destination for commercial UAS and AAM development.