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Upstate N.Y. drone test site gets another $1 million in funding

Ryan Delaney

There's another $1 million in the recently passed state budget for upstate New York's new drone testing program, which means the site now has enough funding to get through at least its first year of operations.

NUAIR, the coalition of upstate New York and Massachusetts colleges and defense contractors that successfully lobbied the Federal Aviation Administration last year to get one of six drone test site designations, said it needs $1.2 million each of its first two years to operate.

The testing facilities will be located at the former Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome. The $1 million dollar grant announced this week goes along with two $600,000 state grants already awarded to NUAIR. 

"It has been developing much like a tsunami; small at first and then stronger and stronger," said NUAIR's chief legal council, Larry Brinker.

NUAIR has one grant to construct a new hanger and office space at the airport.

Until the state grant money ends up in NUAIR's bank account, Brinker says they're relying on donations from the private sector members of their coalition. 

The drone industry is predicted to be a multi-billion dollar global industry in the next decade. It's predicted NUAIR will create more than 400 jobs in central New York.

“NUAIR is putting Syracuse and the Utica-Rome area on the unmanned technology map,” Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi said, who represents the Utica-Rome area and helped secure the grants.

The alliance is working through the FAA's process of getting the site officially up and running, Brinker said, with hopes of by early June. 

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