NUAIR Alliance Receives $4 Million to Advance Sense and Avoid Technology for UAS Systems

Posted on December 1, 2015

Nuair Logo Blue

Testing capabilities being deployed in region are first in US 

Today, the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance (NUAIR Alliance) and Griffiss International Airport announced they were awarded $4 million in grant funding through the fourth round of Governor Cuomo’s competitive Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) process. The grant will support the installation of state-of-the-art instrumentation for tracking of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations at Griffiss International Airport and at approved locations in Central and Northern New York, and the Mohawk Valley.

This investment will allow 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, making Griffiss International Airport a strategic location for the emerging UAS industry.

“Through The NUAIR Alliance Test Range Instrumentation project, NUAIR and its partners are leading the nation in using sense and avoid technologies that are critical to integrating UAS into the nation’s commercial airspace,” said Lawrence H. Brinker, NUAIR Alliance Executive Director and General Counsel. “We are excited to begin the process of collecting and analyzing data to develop safety, performance and certification standards supporting the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in safe introduction of this new technology.”

A current challenge faced by the UAS industry is the inability to comply with “see and avoid” flight requirements because of the lack of an on-board pilot. The FAA has ruled that UAS must be able to sense and avoid other aircraft. The most basic sense and avoid requirement will be addressed and tested through this NUAIR project.

The technology being developed for Griffiss International Airport and the surrounding area by SRC and Saab Sensis Corporation will provide ground-based UAS pilots with situational awareness information to keep the unmanned aircraft clear of other aircraft in order to avoid collisions. The instrumentation will consist of two complementary small radars and locating equipment (multilateration units) that will be positioned on existing cell towers located to the north of Griffiss International Airport. The project will install Saab Sensis Corporation’s Wide Area Multilateration (WAM) Surveillance Airport Surface Radar and SRC’s LSTAR (V3) Air Surveillance Radar at the test site and to the north in the Lowville area.

“SRC looks forward to working with NUAIR and partners in the installation of a state-of-art sense and avoid testbed. Our sensors and algorithms will allow essential data to be collected and analyzed, and ultimately provide a safe way to begin flying UAS in the National Airspace System,” said Paul G. Tremont, SRC president. “SRC will leverage a long history of radar system development and software algorithm advancement that is key to adapting air surveillance systems for detecting and tracking small and slow UAS.”

“The equipment supported by the REDC grant enables NUAIR to accurately and reliably track and record the position of UAS during testing,” said Michael Gerry, President, Saab Sensis Corporation. “It is anticipated that this accurate data will dramatically reduce the effort to certify and safely integrate UAS into the National Airspace.”

In addition to supplying aircraft tracking data for UAS operators, there are additional testing opportunities to support the MQ-9 Reaper mission of the 174th New York Air National Guard Wing, 10th Mountain Division’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle operations, Air Force Research Laboratory activity and the governor’s civil support capability.
“The NUAIR Test Range Instrumentation is a first step toward opening up a large market opportunity, and strengthening economic development across Oneida County and all Central New York,” said Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. “This investment will continue to build upon our test site as the premiere location in the country to test unmanned aerial systems.”

This project is also one of the first-cross regional projects to receive REDC funding through a joint submission by the Central New York and the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Councils.

“The NUAIR Alliance Test Range Instrumentation project was selected as a regional priority by the Central New York and Mohawk Valley Regional Councils because it holds significant promise to create jobs, leverage private sector investment and position our region as a leader in UAS technologies,” said Rob Simpson, president CenterState CEO, and co-chair of the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council. “This project also demonstrates the importance of regional collaborations and the impact and opportunities which can be realized when leaders are willing to work together to advance shared goals.”

“Today’s announcement is a reflection of the collaboration and cross regional partnerships that have been forged to position the greater Central New York region as a leader in UAS technologies with Griffiss International Airport playing a pivotal role in the development of this industry,” said Steve DiMeo, president of Mohawk Valley EDGE. “New York’s approval of funding will help generate long term economic benefits that will strengthen and enhance the innovation economy agenda that is helping to transform the regional economy.”

The NUAIR Alliance Test Range Instrumentation project will also help to advance UAS training and job creation. In conjunction with the test site, Griffiss International Airport and the NUAIR Alliance are working with Mohawk Valley Community College to develop training programs for civil and commercial UAS. The program would be an extension of the college’s A&P certificate program, and would create direct job training for employment in the fields of robotics and UAS technology.

The UAS industry is projected nationwide to create an estimated 70,000 new jobs by 2017 and 100,000 by 2025. This program will prepare students to meet the increased demand for trained workers in UAS technology, and allow students to connect directly with employers through proximity to the NUAIR test site.

In conjunction with today’s grant award announcement, the NUAIR Alliance is releasing to its industry and academic partners a request for information (RFI) on potential follow-on projects for consideration in 2015 and 2016. The RFI solicits ideas for consideration in the development of future Griffiss UAS Test Site Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) initiatives aimed at supporting the FAA in accelerating safe UAS integration into the national airspace. The RFI is available for download on the NUAIR website at

The Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance (NUAIR Alliance) is a consortium of industry leaders and academic institutions throughout New York and Massachusetts, led by the CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity (CEO), in New York, and MassDevelopment, in Massachusetts. CenterState CEO is an organization of 2,000 companies that work together to increase business competitiveness, community prosperity, and regional growth in the 12-county CenterState New York region. MassDevelopment, the Commonwealth’s finance and development agency, works with businesses, nonprofits, financial institutions, and communities to stimulate economic growth throughout Massachusetts. Under the leadership of MassDevelopment and CenterState CEO, industry experts and academic institutions in both states formed NUAIR and combined assets, expertise and experience to compete for a FAA-designated UAS testing site. Organizations partnering with Griffiss International Airport and NUAIR include Saab Sensis, SRC, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, together with colleges and universities including Rochester Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Massachusetts institutions, Syracuse University, Clarkson University and Northeastern University, among others.

Griffiss was constructed in 1942 as a supply depot for the Army Air Forces and was home to the United State Air Force Strategic Air Command 416th Bomb Wing, flyingB-52s and KC-135s until the base closed in 1996. Today, Griffiss International Airport has become a regional economic development asset. The airport is home to the Griffiss Business and Tech Park and employs more than 6,000 military and civilian personnel. New York State has years of experience flying UAS through the 174th Air National Guard Wing and the Air Force Research Labs Information Directorate. The Griffiss UAS Test Site will build off this experience and will establish New York State as a leader in civil and commercial UAS development and the safe integration of UAS into the nation’s airspace.

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