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CNY drone advocates hopeful for federal money for research

Ellen Abbott
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is pushing for federal research money for the at drone testing site, like the one at Griffiss International in Rome

Boosters of drone technology in central New York are hoping the federal government comes through with some new research dollars in the coming months.

When lawmakers go back to Washington for a lame duck session, they are expected to approve a first-ever funding stream earmarked for research into unmanned aircraft systems.

That would place $6 million up for grabs to the nation's seven Federal Aviation Administration-designated Unmanned Aircraft Systems test sites, including the one at Griffiss International in Rome. 

Lawmakers are promising they will get as much as they can of that pot of money for central New York.  Rob Simpson, president of CenterState CEO, says it would be welcomed because, with much of the drone technology in place, the next step is innovation.

"What we really feel like is an important piece of that step is helping companies, particularly early stage companies, not just the GE’s of the world, the companies who have few resources, who are trying to develop commercial products to the UAS industry," Simpson said. “"The opportunity to bring federal research dollars that could match private dollars, it just lowers the barrier for entry."

Simpson said there are applications on a number of fronts, including agriculture and law enforcement. And he said innovation is happening at such a fast clip right now, the idea of using quad copters for moving people in airborne taxis is a possibility in just a couple of years.

"It’s amazing, the amount of creativity people have," Simpson said. "As the technology matured and as the regulatory environment is more permissive, people aren’t as afraid of it as they might have been even five or six years ago."

Congress is expected to take up this funding as part of the so-called THUD, or Transportation and Housing and Urban Development bill, at the end of the year.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.