Getting designated as one of six drone test sites in the U.S. is just the beginning.
Now that the NUAIR Alliance, which has Griffiss International Airport as its central airfield, has been chosen by the Federal Aviation Administration, the group will have to work fast to get operations up and running to make the most of the award.
"Just being one of the six opens the door," U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said last week in the wake of the announcement. "But we still have to walk through."
The NUAIR group is hoping to be among the first to open to companies wishing to test their drones.
"The commercial and civil marketplace is ready to explode as soon as they get authorization," said NUAIR Alliance General Counsel Lawrence Brinker. "The quicker we can get going, the faster we become attractive, because that will lead them more quickly to the commercial market place."
Depending on their needs, some companies might choose to locate some of their operations in the area, he said.
The FAA will select the first of the six sites to formally open by June, and the next few sites before the end of the year. The remaining sites will open later.
The first phase of the integration of drones into civilian airspace is set to begin in September 2015.
Key steps to getting started are:
* Developing a plan that meets the FAA's requirements for safety and operation.
* Finding funding to implement the plans.
* Get a physical location up and running.
A preliminary plan is due to the FAA by Jan. 14. Brinker also said some early drone testing could start as early as three months from now, despite the FAA's public schedule.
NUAIR and Oneida County are in discussions about the lease of a 14,000-square-foot nose dock hangar at Griffiss, a former Air Force base.
Brinker said most of the 10 to 15 NUAIR employees at Griffiss will be housed at the nose dock, though there could be another 10 to 15 staffers involved in educational programs at the site geared toward people who want to work with drones.
County Executive Anthony Picente and Steve DiMeo, Mohawk Valley EDGE economic development agency president, said they are working closely with NUAIR to make sure the group has everything it needs.
"We have been involved and engaged throughout and it will be a collaborative process," Picente said.
Picente and DiMeo said they are looking into whether they can get parcels at Griffiss into the state's new START-UP New York program, which offers tax exemptions to new companies setting up shop near state colleges and universities.
Page 2 of 2 - State Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, said he is looking into whether state funding is available.
'There is a willingness and a readiness to make this happen," he said. "But we need to put the pieces together."
Griffo said he is waiting for details about how much money is needed. Brinker said he is hoping for some state and federal dollars, which could be available in the forms of grants specifically geared for various purposes. Also, he said, once the operation is up and running, there will be a fee for the facilities' use.
Melanie Hinton, a spokeswoman for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said it is important for the test sites to open up quickly, but "if you aren't first, you haven't missed out."
All the test sites will have a jump on the competition, as the civilian airspace opens up to drones and other places are able to hold tests.
"The test sites will have established reputations, so it will be easier for them to attract manufacturers and people who want to test products," Hinton said.
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