Central NY could be test site for unmanned aircraft

Imagine looking up toward the sky one day and realizing that many of the aircraft flying overhead would be unmanned, meaning no pilot.

On Thursday, local economic development officials announced the formation of the NUAIR alliance. The Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance is a consortium of 40 organizations in New York and Massachusetts. NUAIR is applying to the Federal Aviation Administration to have this region designated as one of 6 test sites for the development of unmanned aircraft systems. The military is already using unmanned aircraft called drones for air defense missions, but the FAA wants to apply the technology to the commercial sector.

NUAIR is headed by retired Airforce General Robert Knauff who told reporters, "They envision the day unmanned platforms will be taking off at commercial airports like Griffiss, or even Hancock, and flying cargo or high value sensors, to another place and doing it as if it was a manned platform."

NUAIR anticipates unmanned aircraft systems could grow into an $89 billion industry employing 23 thousand people by 2025. NUAIR officials say this area is ideally suited as a test site because of Fort Drum, the former Griffiss airbase, Hancock airbase in Syracuse, along with a number of aero-space companies and academic institutions.