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The Upstate Economy

Drone test site secures half its startup funding with state grant

Ryan Delaney

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.

A state grant worth $600,000 has been given to NUAIR, the alliance of upstate defense contractors and universities that won approval to run one of six federal drone test sites. That’s half of what’s needed to begin operating the test site, which will be located at the former Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York.

State Sen. Joe Griffo, R-Rome, helped secure the grant, which comes from a fund to re-purpose former military installations.

"This is an intriguing area right now and I think it’s imperative that we position ourselves to try to take advantage of that and whoever does it best and quickest I think will have the greatest chance of opportunity for jobs," he said.

Griffo says there’s hope that the grant will be renewed next year. Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica, called the grant "a good start" toward getting the site going. He said there's likely more the state can and should do to support the site.

"The alliance contains private sector companies, academic institutions and government," said NUAIR executive director Larry Brinker. We expect funding to really flow into the range, the test site, from all of those sources."

NUAIR hopes to begin drone test flights by early summer, Brinker said. The program is part of the FAA’s work to come up with regulations for drone use in domestic airspace.

Drones are seen as a multi-billion growth dollar industry over the next few decades.