Drone Technology Takes Flight

How New York State Innovators Are Turning Military Technology into Life-Saving Mainstay

The hurricanes that devastated Texas and Florida earlier this year also ushered in a new era for first responders, by adding drones to their ranks to make search-and-rescue missions safer and more effective. The FAA described the invaluable aid unmanned aerial systems (UAS) provided as part of the "landmark evolution of drone usage.”* While this technology is gaining traction and attention on a national level, Central New York is becoming a hub of industry development and innovation for the nation’s top UAS developers.

 Drones, more economical and less risky to operate than traditional aircraft during search and rescue operations, can go where manned helicopters cannot. And the broader issue of drones and safety is one that’s actively being tested by UAS developers throughout Central New York for application in industries including aerospace, defense and security. Developers at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, N.Y., a former Air Force Base that is now one of only seven FAA-approved drone test sites in the nation, are exploring UAS potential every day.

Central New York: Where UAS Takes Flight

Unmanned aerial systems are a game-changing technology and Central New York is helping the industry take flight around the world.

Global security and Central New York aerospace companies like Lockheed Martin, Saab and Gryphon Sensors test a range of UAS technology at Griffiss under strict national standards. From microscopic defensive drone detectors to the first air traffic control system to manage them in flight, the local companies’ work also contributes to the creation of highly sophisticated military vehicles, like the U.S. Marine Corp’s unmanned K-Max helicopter developed by Lockheed Martin and Kaman Aerospace.

"Thanks to New York State's unprecedented and visionary investment in UAS infrastructure, Central New York…will have the most advanced infrastructure in the world to conduct UAS testing and commercial beyond visual line of sight operations,” said Anthony Albanese, president of Gryphon Sensors.

New York State’s more than $30 million investment in UAS has helped take this industry even higher. In May, the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research (NUAIR) Alliance, a public-private partnership of over 100 collaborators, with NASA at Griffiss essentially defined the next level of drone air traffic control through rigorous testing of flight paths beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight.

Whether helping with search and rescue across flood-ravaged communities or isolated mountain passes or improving the safety of large-scale construction projects with clear views of hard-to-reach bridges or isolated railways, the uses and potential of drones are just taking flight.

"The partnership at work in NY to implement the UTM corridor is writing another chapter in aviation's rich history of innovation,” said FAA deputy administrator, Dan Elwell. “Allowing safe, beyond visual line of sight UAS operations through detection of manned and unmanned vehicles is the critical next step toward fully recognizing the benefits of this new technology."


*McNabb, Miriam. “FAA: Hurricane Response a ‘Landmark in the Evolution of Drone Usage.’” DroneLife.com (September 17, 2017)  https://dronelife.com/2017/09/19/faa-hurricane-response-landmark-evolution-drone-usage/