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New York’s unmanned aircraft industry has gained a new achievement. The first air corridor in the US where unmanned aerial vehicles can safely fly beyond line of sight for testing and development has been recently launched.
The Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance, or Nuair, officially activated the corridor by flying a manned aircraft and a small drone in airspace over and around Griffiss International Airport. The alliance, a collection of more than 100 for-profit and non-profit companies, is working to make Central New York and the Mohawk Valley a magnet for the growing unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, industry.
Ground-based sensors and radars developed by Gryphon Sensors, a subsidiary of SRC Inc., detected and tracked both aircraft in a demonstration that allowed air traffic managers to keep the two craft a safe distance from each other, according to syracuse.com.
The corridor now consists of a 5-mile circle around Griffiss, in which special sensors and radars are able to detect small drones flying at very low altitudes – something traditional radars around airports cannot do.
Nuair President and CEO Larry Brinker said the corridor will be expanded next year, with $30 million in state funding, into a 50-mile-long air space stretching from Rome to Syracuse. Officials said construction of the full network of sensors and radars is expected to start by the third quarter of 2018.
“If you are interested in this industry, this is the place to be,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose administration has pledged up to $250 million in state funding under his Upstate Revitalization Initiative to build the corridor and promote the growth of the UAV industry in the region.
Brinker said the Rome to Syracuse air corridor will allow manufacturers of drones and their components and developers of unmanned air traffic control systems to safely test their hardware and systems in airways where manned aircraft also fly.
Cuomo announced that NASA, in an agreement with Nuair, will expand its testing of unmanned air traffic control systems within the corridor. “With this groundbreaking partnership and our $30 million investment for the most advanced drone testing in the country, we are establishing Central New York and the Mohawk Valley as the premiere destination for businesses at the forefront of innovation,” he said.
As part of the demonstration at Griffiss, Gyphon showed off its Mobile Skylight, a van equipped with a special radar that can spot small drones. The van also has detectors that can listen in on the radio communications between drones and their operators, enhancing the ability of air traffic controllers to monitor the location of the unmanned aircraft.