Envisioning a day when millions of drones will buzz around delivering packages, watching crops, or inspecting pipelines, a coalition is creating an airspace corridor in upstate New York where traffic management systems will be developed and unmanned aircraft can undergo safety and performance testing. The unmanned aircraft traffic management corridor, jump-started by a $30 million state investment, will extend 50 miles west to Syracuse over mostly rural farmland from Griffiss International Airport, a former Air Force base in Rome that is already home to NASA-affiliated drone testing, the AP reports. The corridor will be equipped with radar and ground-based sensors to enable what Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo boasted would be "the most advanced drone testing in the country."
Testing at the airport is currently restricted to a five-mile radius, in part because of Federal Aviation Administration rules that normally limit flying beyond the operator's line of sight, except in special circumstances, such as disaster area surveys. Companies will be able to use the corridor to test hardware in airspace where manned aircraft also fly. Part of the concept is to help NASA test technology that will allow the FAA to create regulations opening national airspace to a commercial drone industry. "Clients will eventually be able to fly beyond the visual line of sight in the corridor testing their technology," says Tony Basile at the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance, which launched the first segment of the corridor last month. (Last week, a drone slammed into a commercial flight in Canada.)