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

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

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched his push to include language that would extend the six unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research and test operators, including NUAIR, located Griffiss International Airport in Oneida County, in the upcoming FAA Reauthorization bill.  According to Schumer NUAIR, is at the very cutting-edge of a rapidly emerging new technology, and is becoming the center of technological innovation in Central New York. However, Schumer said unless Congress inserts language in the upcoming reauthorization bill, NUAIR’s bright future could be in trouble. 

“NUAIR and all of their cutting-edge research could be in jeopardy if Congress does not extend the UAS test sites in the upcoming FAA Reauthorization bill,” said Senator Schumer. “An extension will protect and grow jobs, spur new technology and support cutting-edge research. That is why I am pushing for language in this bill to extend NUAIR and the other test sites to help them further develop ways to integrate UAS technology into the national airspace. We need to use every tool at our disposal to support NUAIR and the important work they do in Central New York and I am dedicated to fighting for this smart investment for years to come.”

The current FAA authorization is set to expire on March 31, and Congress must pass legislation to reauthorize the agency before that date. Schumer wrote to leadership of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation to urge them to include language in the FAA bill that would extend NUAIR and the other UAS test site operators. Schumer says extending the test sites gives the now nascent UAS industry a chance to grow stronger in the coming years while leveraging the existing work that has already been accomplished at the test sites.

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.

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 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