Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Upstate New York’s new drone testing site is closer to pulling enough money together to begin operating. It’s been awarded a state grant to cover some of its startup costs.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Upstate New York’s successful bid to host one of the nation’s drone testing programs came with the promise of millions of dollars in economic benefit to the region, but money to establish and fund the site itself is still needed.

Now the consortium behind the designation is reaching out to New York state. Ryan Delaney reports.

Finding a place for drones in central New York skies

Jan 20, 2014
white airplane shaped drone flying over rolling green feild

Unmanned Aircraft Systems or drones are coming to our domestic airways by the end of 2015. Formerly better known for their role in warfare, drones are on their way to becoming as ubiquitous in our skies in commercial guise.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

A company has already signed on to use upstate New York's newly designated commercial drone testing site just days after the state was named as one.

The Federal Aviation Administration still has to give final approval for testing to begin, something economic and elected officials hope will happen soon.

Sen. Charles Schumer and others praised their work Friday towards landing one of just six test sites from the FAA, staging drone demo flights at Syracuse University. The other states are Alaska, Nevada, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia.

The test sites are part of the FAA's role in figuring out how to integrate civilian drones into the national airspace by the end of 2015.

David Sommerstein/NCPR

Not long after a military drone crashed into Lake Ontario in November, the program that aircraft belonged to is getting a boost with funding from the 2014 defense spending bill signed into law last week. The money will go toward expanding a storage and maintenance facility at Fort Drum.

An Air National Guard unit based in Syracuse flies missions in Afghanistan, and trains active duty Air Force personnel to maintain and fly unmanned aerial vehicles, a program that’s drawn protests at Hancock Field.

During training missions, a crew at Fort Drum controls takeoff, then a pilot based in Syracuse takes over the flight.