The Federal Aviation Administration has chosen northern and central New York as one of six sites nationwide for drone research.
"I think the best way to think about it is it would be a staged integration of unmanned aircraft into our national airspace system," said Michael Huerta, FAA administrator.
The designation does not necessarily mean more drone flights over the area, at least not to start. It was unclear from Monday's announcement whether the air space over northern New York would eventually be used for drone tests.
The group which will do drone research in northern and central New York goes by the name of NUAIR, and is made up of "dozens of" organizations in New York and Massachusetts, according to Kevin Schwab, a spokesman for NUAIR.
"What we're looking for is things like performance, control and safety," said Schwab.
NUAIR said Clarkson University is part of the group that will do the research.
NUAIR will operate out of Griffiss airport in Rome.
"One of the things that was very strong about our region's application to the FAA was really the diversity of flying conditions," said Schwab.
Schwab said the growth of commercial drones could create more than 3,000 new jobs in New York state.
He said he was unsure exactly where the drones will fly since the Federal Aviation Administration must sign off on the decision.
The purpose of the research is to learn how to integrate drones with civilian air traffic in a variety of environments; hence, the six different locations chosen.
Although Fort Drum is currently home to "Reaper" drones controlled out of an air base in Syracuse, it is not part of the NUAIR group now, according to Schwab.
That said, Schwab noted NUAIR hopes to eventually tap into Drum's drone capacity as part of its testing program.
NUAIR needs Department of Defense approval before it can use Wheeler-Sack Airfield; it's unclear if the group will request it, said Schwab.
(One of Drum's drones is pictured with this story.)
Thursday, May 5, 2016, Watertown, NY
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