Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Empire State Development is funding a startup competition called Genius NY to attract teams with ideas to innovate drone technology. The business accelerator is meant to highlight the region’s commitment to building a new economy around unmanned systems.  

Six teams will split prizes totaling more than $2.7 million and spend a year developing their ideas at the Tech Garden in Syracuse. Jonathan Parry, the director of Genius NY, said while drones are becoming more popular, this competition is looking for the software, sensors and radar that will guide autonomous systems.

Sasha-Ann Simons / WXXI News

On a cloudy summer morning, Rochester Institute of Technology professor Carl Salvaggio and a student from the school’s Center for Imaging Science stood in an open Pittsford field, eyes fixed on the sky. They were flying an unmanned aircraft system — also known as a drone — with the help of a longtime pilot.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

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.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News file photo

President Barack Obama has announced the biggest expansion of U.S. ground troops in Syria since the civil war there began. And that’s not sitting well with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).

The U.S. will deploy 250 special forces troops to help militia fighters in Syria. Schumer is leery about the operation.

"We have good fighting forces who can do the job -- the Kurds in particular. And we should not get into one of these snares, where first we have 200 troops, then 500 troops, then 5,000 troops,” Schumer.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

A drone protester was taken into custody in the town of DeWitt to begin serving a six-month jail sentence for violating an order of protection for a colonel at Hancock Air National Guard Base. Protesters argue that the colonel who took out the orders did so to get them off the base, not because they posed a threat.

Fifty-nine-year-old anti-drone activist Mary Anne Grady Flores, who was convicted of violating the protection order for being at a protest at Hancock Field in February 2013, said the order has no legal merit. 

WBFO News File Photo

A plan to install up to 70 giant wind turbines in two neighboring communities along the Lake Ontario shoreline has strong opposition from many in those communities. They've gained allies from an unusual source: three retired Air Force colonels who claim the wind turbines would also jeopardize the future of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Central New York will receive $500 million over the next five years as one of the big winners of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative. The central New York proposal includes projects affecting a wide range of industries.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

A coalition of peace organizations are making a 165-mile walk from Syracuse’s Hancock Air Base to the Niagara Falls Air Base, to bring attention to the military's drone operations that take place there. One of the goals is to educate the public on what it is like being in Afghanistan, where the fear of drones is a part of life for many.

For Julienne Oldfield and about 20 others, the day started at the Hancock Air Base where protesters have rallied against drone warfare for years.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Central New York Regional Economic Development council is bullish that its proposal for the New York State Upstate Revitalization Initiative will be a winner.  

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News File Photo

The Air National Guard wants to fly remotely piloted aircraft out of Hancock Field at the Syracuse International Airport. The change would save time and money, as the National Guard has to send its aircraft to fly from Fort Drum because of airspace restrictions.

General Atomics Aeronautics

A small group of soldiers from Fort Drum’s 10th Combat Aviation Brigade will be the first from Fort Drum to deploy to Afghanistan this year. The unit will operate new Gray Eagle drones as part of the new mission in that country.  

Only ten units in the Army can  operate these drones. Fort Drum's Delta Company is one of them.  Major Josh Jacques  is a spokesmen for Fort Drum.  He says the Gray Eagles will act as the eyes for ground troops in Afghanistan.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Another drone resistance trial is taking place in DeWitt Town Court. The latest protester to go to trial participated in a staged die-in outside the front gate of Hancock Air Base last spring and wants to defend herself by telling the tales of the effect of drone warfare on everyday people.

Bonny Mahoney and the group Code Pink visited Pakistan in 2012 to express their opposition to the U.S. drone strikes in that country. Mahoney says she will tell jurors in her trial about the fear that she felt among the people of that country.

New course at community colleges: how to fly a drone

Jan 14, 2015
Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Community colleges in upstate New York are beginning to offer introductory courses to unmanned aircraft, often called drones.

The courses here are just getting off the ground, compared to programs offered at the University of North Dakota and others, where students can major in unmanned aircraft systems.

Upstate Drone Resisters / (file photo)

A judge has sentenced another person arrested for protesting drone warfare outside of Hancock Airfield. Mark Colville is just the latest in a string of protesters to be brought before the DeWitt town court.

Colville, of New Haven, Connecticut, was arrested a year ago for trying to deliver a letter to commanders at the base of the 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard. He was arrested when he refused to leave.

Before standing in front of the judge Wednesday, Colville said his court date should not be a somber event.

Don McCullough / via Flickr

After several instances of small drones being spotted near New York City’s largest airport, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is becoming more concerned about safety and privacy concerns over the unmanned aircraft.

Schumer says some recent near-misses between small drones and commercial aircraft and helicopters in New York City show a need for safety and privacy regulations to be released from the Federal Aviation Administration as soon as possible.

Just to the north, the drone industry takes off

Oct 13, 2014
Ars Electronica / via Flickr

There have been 1,020 small unmanned aerial vehicle flights -- what most people call drones -- in Canada this year, according to the Canadian transportation officials.

That's up from 945 in 2013 and 347 in 2012, Transport Canada reported.

"In Canada, as globally, UAV is exploding," said Joe Barnsley, an aviation attorney in Winnipeg, Canada. "It’s a huge growth area."

Meanwhile, the U.S. drone industry is simmering more than exploding. 

David Rodriguez Martin / via Flickr

The commercial drone industry says privacy advocates are unfairly targeting it when it comes to privacy and surveillance concerns.

The unmanned aerial systems industry wasn’t even expecting to have to fight over privacy when it came to the integration of drones into the national airspace.

"When the FAA bill passed, we had no idea privacy was going to be the issue de jour, of the day, for the next years to come," said Mario Mairena, who handles government relations for the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a leading industry trade group.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

A remotely-piloted military aircraft taxied around Hancock Airfield for the first time Tuesday.

Officers of the 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard are calling it a small step toward a goal they’ve had for five years: launching their MQ-9 Reaper drones from Syracuse.

"A milestone," albeit not a dramatic one, is what Col. Greg Semmel, the 174th's commander, said of the event. 

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the first private drone flights over upstate New York as part of a national testing program.

The Northeast UAS (unmanned aerial systems) Airspace Integration Research Alliance, or NUAIR, has spent the better part of the year waiting for the FAA's approval to begin testing remotely piloted aircraft.

Courtesy of Upstate Drone Resisters

Activists opposed to drone warfare continue targeting the Hancock Field Air National Guard Base north of Syracuse.

During a protest at the air base last week, local upstate drone activists were joined by some members of the Atlantic Life Community Activists, an East Coast-based group of pacifists.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Besides some clouds on Nov. 12, 2013, Air National Guard crew members recalled to accident investigators that it was a nice day for flying.

But it was a cold, late fall day, just below freezing on the ground at Fort Drum, where the Air National Guard launches its remotely piloted aircraft for training missions over upstate New York. 

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

An unmanned aircraft expert says a "not uncommon problem" caused an Air National Guard drone to smash into Lake Ontario last November.

The Air Force says multiple communication and navigation failures lead to the crash of an MQ-9 Reaper drone, piloted by the Syracuse-based 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard.

No one was hurt when the multi-ton aircraft plummeted into the lake 12 miles offshore, late last year.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News File Photo

Multiple communication and navigation failures on 174th Air National Guard Attack Wing's MQ-9 Reaper unmanned drone flying over central New York last November caused it to crash in Lake Ontario.

provided photo / Air National Guard

The former commander of the Syracuse Air National Guard unit, then later state guard operations, died over the weekend in a flying accident in Arizona.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office says 61-year-old Retired Major General Robert Knauff died Saturday afternoon after his glider crashed in Aguila, in the desert outside of Phoenix.

Knauff assumed command of the Syracuse-based 174th Fighter Wing in 1996 and was commander of the New York Air Guard from 2005 until his retirement from the military in 2009.

Military drones piloted from Syracuse attack targets in Afghanistan. Griffis Airport in Rome has been tapped to test the safety of commercial drones. With little fanfare, upstate New York has become central to adaptation of unmanned aerial vehicles. Wednesday night, the controversy over drones came to Utica.

Investigation into drone crash nearing completion

Apr 8, 2014
Ryan Delaney / WRVO

The Air Force's investigation into the crash of a drone aircraft into Lake Ontario last fall is nearing completion and should be made public later this spring.

Investigators from the Air Force Investigations Board wrapped up the on-site investigation at Hancock Airfield on March 20, according to 174th Air Guard Attack Wing spokeswoman Maj. Sandy Stoquert.

Investigators did not give the 174th a preliminary report or portions of its finding yet, Stoquert said.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

There's another $1 million in the recently passed state budget for upstate New York's new drone testing program, which means the site now has enough funding to get through at least its first year of operations.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

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.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Twelve activists opposed to drone warfare are spending the next few weeks in an Onondaga County correctional facility. The sentencing capped off a month-long trial, with an admonition from a judge to avoid any more protests on Hancock Air Base property.

Video shot of the Hancock 17 war crimes protesters last October in front of Hancock Air Base near Syracuse, which houses the 174th Fighter Attack Wing, showed the protesters involved in some confrontations and near-miss traffic accidents. It was that video that prompted DeWitt Town Justice David Gideon to warn activists.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

There was no federal funding attached to the Federal Aviation Administration’s designation of upstate New York as a drone research site, but the coalition that will run the testing needs money to begin operations itself.

The coalition that won the bid just before the New Year, known as NUAIR, will be based at the former Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome. The research lab there is upgrading a former hanger to house drones and equipment.