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Schumer Previously Led The Charge To Get The FAA To Choose NUAIR As A Premier National UAS Research And Testing Site

Legislation That Includes 5-Year Extension Of NUAIR Test Site Just Passed The Senate; Schumer Urges House To Pass This Bill

Schumer: NUAIR Has Put Oneida County On The Map As A Leader In UAS Testing And Research

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that, following his push, the Senate has passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill, which includes an amendment Schumer fought for that would extend the test site designation for NUAIR, located at Griffiss International Airport in Oneida County, for another 5 years. The passage of this bill means that a five-year extension of NUAIR is yet another step closer to becoming a reality. This extension would ensure that the six unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test sites around the country, including NUAIR, can continue their important work of researching and testing UAS systems. According to Schumer, NUAIR is at the very cutting-edge of a rapidly emerging new technology, and is becoming the center of technological innovation throughout Central New York and the Mohawk Valley. However, Schumer said unless Congress inserted language in the FAA reauthorization bill, NUAIR’s bright future may have been in trouble because the test site designation that NUAIR relies on would have expired next year. That is why Schumer fought hard to make sure the Senate FAA bill was amended to include a 5-year extension of NUAIR’s designation. Schumer therefore urged his colleagues in the House of Representatives to support this 5-year extension amendment in the final FAA bill, which has officially passed the full Senate.

“This is great news for NUAIR and Griffiss International Airport, because we are now one step closer to getting the 5-year extension we need to protect and grow jobs, spur new technology and support cutting-edge research right here in the Mohawk Valley. Including this extension in the recently passed Senate bill will keep our region at the forefront of the emerging UAS industry, and I am urging my colleagues in the House to do the same. We need to use every tool at our disposal to support NUAIR and the important work they do throughout  upstate New York, and I am dedicated to fighting for this smart investment for years to come,” said Schumer.

Schumer explained that the Senate just passed the FAA authorization bill, because the FAA is set to expire on July 15. Schumer cosponsored the 5-year extension amendment that was approved, along with Senators Hoeven, Warner, Murkowski, Heller, Reid, and Kaine. In March, Schumer wrote to leadership of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation to urge them to include a 5-year extension of NUAIR and the other test sites designation in that FAA bill. Schumer said extending the test sites gives the now nascent UAS industry a chance to grow even stronger in the coming years while leveraging the existing work that has already been accomplished at the test sites. The recently passed bill also includes an amendment that would require the FAA to leverage the testing capabilities of the UAS Center of Excellence and the test sites, including NUAIR, when carrying out research to establish drone safety standards and certification requirements.

Schumer highlighted important work currently being conducted by NUAIR as one of the reasons an extension was so important. In response to current challenges faced by the UAS industry, the FAA assigned a topic for each site to focus on. For Griffiss and the NUAIR alliance, they are tasked with concentrating on the UAS industry’s inability to comply with “see and avoid” flight requirements because of the lack of an on-board pilot. This has spurred state and private investment that has allowed  NUAIR and its alliance partners to deploy state-of-the-art range instrumentation which can track UAS in the air and provide safety-enhancing sense and avoid capabilities. This testing capability is the first of its kind at any UAS test site in the country and has made Griffiss International Airport a strategic location for the emerging UAS industry. In addition, NASA entered into a 5-year contract in 2015 with each test site to support NASA’s Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) and UAS Traffic Management (UTM) programs. As of this week, NASA began its testing at Griffiss in conjunction with NUAIR and its private sector stakeholders to collect data and feedback to further develop the NAS and UTM concepts.

Schumer has long been an advocate for bringing UAS jobs and technology to Central New York. In 2011, Schumer fought to increase the number of test sites in the National Airspace System for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) from 4 to 6, which paved the way for NUAIR to apply. Through local meetings with NUAIR officials, a series of personal phone calls and meetings with FAA Administrator Huerta and Transportation Secretary Foxx, Schumer worked to make the case that the FAA should select NUAIR’s application, led by Griffiss International Airport, to be one of the six national test sites for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) designation, and the FAA and DOT eventually heeded Schumer’s call. Schumer fought on behalf of Central New York because this designation promised to bring jobs and millions of dollars in high-tech investment to the Oneida County region.

A copy of Schumer’s initial letter to the Senate Commerce Committee appears below:

Dear Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson:

I write to urge you to include language in the FAA reauthorization bill extending the six unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research and test site operators. Under current law, the test site designations are set to expire in 2017. 

As you know, in December 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) selected six UAS research and test site operators to further the FAA’s UAS research goals of System Safety & Data Gathering, Aircraft Certification, Command & Control Link Issues, Control Station Layout & Certification, Ground & Airborne Sense & Avoid, and Environmental Impacts. I believe these test sites offer an important bridge toward safely and effectively integrating UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS).

In 2015, NASA entered into five-year contract with each test site to support NASA’s UAS in the NAS and UAS traffic management (UTM) programs, participating in important research into the possibility of establishing a traffic management system for low altitude airspace. The FAA has also selected the winner of the UAS Center of Excellence competition—ASSURE led by Mississippi State University—and the Center of Excellence has been directed by Congress to use the test sites for research and development. The test sites have each received millions of dollars of investment from their respective states, assembled highly experiences teams, and built relationships with federal agencies and members of the UAS industry. Congress should extend the test sites to continue building upon these research and economic development steps and successes.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of this important issue. I look forward to continuing to work with you to safely integrate UAS into the National Airspace System.


Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator