New NASA task, grant for drone testing at Griffiss

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The unmanned-aircraft test facility at Oneida County-owned Griffiss international Airport in Rome is getting a new task from NASA: Help develop what amounts to an airport for drones that take off and land vertically, like helicopters.

The county today announced a task-order contract from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration worth $897,000. The test site, housed at a former Air Force hangar at Griffiss, will conduct research for NASA in automation technology to support high-density vertiport operations. The work is aimed at understanding barriers to operating vertical takeoff and landing airports, developing the infrastructure to scale-up use of such craft, and to develop automation technology for flying such aircraft. The task also involves expanding testing-range requirements leading to passenger-carrying vertical craft.

County officials expect the contract will lead to more work and follows other work on behalf of NASA.

The test facility is run by a non-profit organization that gets state financial support. It is part of a test range between Rome and Syracuse designated by the federal government for testing drones out of the line of sight of the operator. The county is also building a vast indoor-outdoor test range for drones, all part of not only testing the aircraft themselves but also command and control systems and safety equipment such as parachutes, all to expanding use of unmanned aircraft.

“Oneida County’s long-standing partnership with NASA has proven to be a productive one,” County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. said in the announcement of the latest NASA task order. “Together, we have conducted crucial research that has led to transformative advancements in the UAS industry. I look forward to the impact this new collaboration will have on the future of this emerging technology.”

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