County names drone development chief

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Oneida County’s efforts at supporting research and development of unmanned aircraft, or drones, is getting its own chief.

County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. has appointed Chad Lawrence, formerly aviation commissioner and director of county-owned Griffiss International Airport in Rome, as head of drone development.

Deputy aviation commissioner Ed Arcuri is acting commissioner.

It’s not a new job because there is a vacant supervisory position at the airport, which will be directed to focus on drone work, Picente said.

“Chad had been really the point from the very beginning with UAS with previous commissioners. We need to reset that and focus his time there,” Picente told the Daily Sentinel Friday.

The county maintains a testing and proving site for unmanned aircraft at Griffiss in conjunction with the non-profit Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research organization, part of a 50-mile-long radar and instrument-rich corridor from Rome to Syracuse federally designated for drone research.

Part of this federally-approved corridor includes a swath from Griffiss to the former county airport in Oriskany approved by the Federal Aviation Administration for drone testing and proving beyond the operator’s line of sight.

The county is also converting a former Air Force hangar at Griffiss into a controlled-environment testing venue called Skydome.

It’s all part of capitalizing on the former Air Force based used from World War II to 1995 and largely converted to a business park.

There will likely also be more development work for the airport, which does not have commercial airline service but serves general aviation and some military craft.

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