SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Unmanned drones could soon be flying over farms in Upstate New York.
NUAIR, Central New York's drone test site project, has applied to the Federal Aviation Administration for its first certificate of authorization to fly a small, fixed-wing drone over farms to monitor crops.
NUAIR - the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance - submitted its application May 29 on behalf of Cornell Cooperative Extension, and hopes it will be approved within the FAA's 60-day review timeline, said Andrea Bianchi, NUAIR program manager.
If approved it would be the first FAA-authorized non-military drone flight in New York state. The 174th Air National Guard Attack Wing has FAA authorization to fly MQ-9 Reaper training operations over Fort Drum, the Adirondacks and Lake Ontario. The Air Force Research Lab Information Directorate also has authorization for drone operations at its test facility in Stockbridge, N.Y.
Each certificate of authorization is specific to a particular unmanned vehicle, location and purpose. NUAIR has asked to fly a PrecisionHawk below 400 feet over farms in western New York. NUAIR officials would not specify in what counties. The Hawk would carry visual, thermal and multi-spectral sensors to evaluate field crops like corn, soybeans and wheat, said Bill Verbeten, a Cornell Cooperative Extension regional agronomist in Buffalo.
"We're trying to enhance what we're already doing with crop scouting on the ground," Verbeten said. "The human eye can only see so much."
Meanwhile, NUAIR continues to operate on a shoestring budget, relying on in-kind services and small contributions from its partners, like Centerstate CEO. NUAIR still has not received any of the $1 million New York state committed in its 2014 budget.
A transportation bill passed by the House of Representatives Tuesday night includes $10.97 million that will be distributed to six national test sites for research into unmanned aircraft. The money will help pay startup costs for the national test sites, including NUAIR.
NUAIR is one of six organizations around the U.S. approved as drone test sites. Three of the six - in North Dakota, Alaska and Nevada, have already received authorizations to fly experimentally.
Contact Dave Tobin at 470-3277, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter: @dttobin
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