Hanna optimistic upstate New York will land drone test site

Mar 25, 2013

Upstate New York has a good chance of becoming one of six federally designated drone testing sites to be named later this year, says Rep. Richard Hanna.

A coalition of research universities and defense contractors submitted a bid last month to become a testing site. It's part of the Federal Aviation Administration's work to come up with regulations for the use of drones - or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) - in domestic skies by the fall of 2015.

Hanna, a Republican from the Utica area, is a member of the House of Representative's Unmanned Systems Caucus, commonly known as the "drone caucus," which pushed the advance of domestic drones through Congress last year.

Hanna says upstate New York has a very strong résumé, pointing at the former Griffiss Air Force base in Rome, and the airspace over the Adirondack Mountains.

But despite Hanna's position on the drone caucus, he says he won't be directly lobbying FAA officials to name upstate New York as a site. He says he'll still be advocating though.

"We certainly can push the point, to the extent that we are on the drone caucus and we have the ability to write letters and talk, and talk up our community," Hanna said in a recent interview. "We do that everywhere we can every day."

Hanna says he was involved in expanding the test site program from three locations to six.

Joe Kummer, president of Propulsive Wing in Elbridge, N.Y., demonstrates a drone prototype.
Joe Kummer, president of Propulsive Wing in Elbridge, N.Y., demonstrates a drone prototype.
Credit Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Drones are expected to be used for everything from law enforcement to agriculture in the coming years. The FAA estimates there could be as many as 10,000 drones in use within a decade.

Those drones are projected to generate a $13.6 billion industry in the U.S., according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. The group also predicts domestic drones will create 70,000 jobs, with more than 2,000 coming to New York state.

Economic development officials here in upstate New York hope winning a test site will position them well to reap as much of the economic boom around domestic drones as possible.