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Drone traffic management convention coming to central New York

Tom Magnarelli
From left to right: CenterState CEO President Rob Simpson, Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.

A convention on the traffic management of unmanned aircraft systems will be held in Syracuse and Rome this fall. The state’s commitment to fund drone programs helped land central New York the convention.

Currently, it’s illegal to fly drones out of the line of sight. But a traffic management system would allow that technology to be possible. That has big implications for many industries, including disaster response, farming, pipeline and utility inspections. Central New York already has companies such as SRC and Gryphon Sensors that are working on drone technology and Griffiss International Airport is a drone test site. Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney said the goal of having this convention is to attract more companies.

“We’re hoping that national companies that want to be part of the building of these radar systems and this air traffic control system, will know that you should set up a business in central New York to be in the hub of where this activity is taking place,” Mahoney said.

Mahoney said the state's financial commitment from the Upstate Revitalization Initiative to central New York's drone programs got the attention of conference planners.

"The state has said, we will fund the programs you need to put in place to capitalize on this," Mahoney said.

NASA is expected to release the second phase of an unmanned traffic management system road map at the convention, which Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said is highly anticipated.

“That is where the world will have their eyes on central New York in November for this conference," Hochul said. "People in cutting edge industries are going to be looking towards us for leadership, the announcements that are going to be coming out of NASA, and they’re going to associate us, associate this region with this emerging industry.”

CenterState CEO Rob Simpson said hundreds of companies from around the world are expected to attend the convention.

"Instead of going out individually and calling on those companies and trying to talk to them about what New York state can offer, we're bring those companies right here to central New York and selling them on what we have to offer," Simpson said.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.