You may have heard about a recent $20 million dollar Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) corridor New York is building.  I thought you might be interested in our experiences so far in the construction of this capability, and our vision to build a venue for regional, national, and global UAS industry research and development.

The concept of a BVLOS corridor was put in motion after the awarding of FAA-designated Test Site status to Griffiss International Airport in Rome, NY, at the end of 2013. With the announcement, New York State recognized the opportunity it had in capitalizing on a new industry.  Concept took a huge step towards reality with Governor Cuomo’s announcement at the NASA UAS Traffic Management (UTM) Conference held in Syracuse, NY in November 2016.  Many millions of dollars would be committed to building a 50-mile corridor between the Test Site in Rome and Syracuse.

This project would complement the other New York State initiatives associated with the unmanned aircraft industry: GENIUS NY, a small business accelerator committing 5 million dollars per year for UAS start-ups; National Unmanned Aircraft System Standardized Testing and Rating (NUSTAR), a body set up to help establish and verify standards within the UAS industry, and Drone Zones, tax free or reduced areas set up for UAS businesses. The corridor, when completed, is expected to allow for total situational awareness (SA) within its 50 mile by 15 mile footprint, from 100’ into the flight levels, and cover towered Class C scheduled commercial service, towered Class D non-scheduled service, and non-towered GA airports.

Our discussions on the design of such a corridor centered on using technology to provide the best possible situational awareness (SA) on any flight activity taking place within it.  Our thought was not to control those aircraft, but to provide better capabilities than our clients would have with visual observers in the field.

Many terms are currently used to describe line of sight (LOS) operations such as BVLOS, EVLOS (Extended Visual Line of Sight), BLOS (Beyond Line of Sight).

While you probably have read many press releases announcing BVLOS authority, very few of those approvals allow operations without at least one visual observer in the field.

This assistance can keep the UAS in sight or monitor for manned aircraft in the operations area.

NUAIR is currently seeking a BVLOS approval without visual observers in the field to cover the whole corridor.  Our approach is based on our crawl-walk-run philosophy at NUAIR. This means we would put each project that comes to us through our multiple safety protocols prior to allowing operations and slowly building up to a culmination of BVLOS, once the corridor is totally approved by the FAA.  At the same time using our crawl-walk-run approach, we have conducted numerous successful EVLOS operations with UAS, ranging from 5 lbs to 3,500 lbs.

We have developed a specific approach to utilize the corridor using multiple sensors of varying capability to detect targets that are cooperative and non-cooperative, and range in size from a sUAS or general aviation airplane.  The data we collect from the sensors is fused and displayed in real time on large screens in an Operations Center located at Griffiss.  NUAIR Operations Supervisors are on duty during all test site operations that involve the Ops Center. The supervisors provide SA to clients or NUAIR pilots flying from within the Ops Center or provide remote assistance in the field via a communications suite. The result is much earlier awareness of traffic than can be provided by visual observers.

Video showcasing the 50-mile corridor: radar, COAs, flight paths and airborne aircrafts.

All of our clients and partners benefit from the highly dedicated team at NUAIR and The NY UAS Test Site and their expert knowledge of radars, other electronic sensors, communications, data retrieval, storage, presentation, cyber, and more. We are also working with many other industry stakeholders and federal government agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  FAA executives have visited the Ops Center at the NY UAS Test Site in the past year, and we look forward to having them back to share the progress we are making toward achieving BVLOS authority.

We are very proud of the progress that is being made at the NY UAS Test Site and the testing services we can provide our clients. Our approach is entirely specific to our region and takes full advantage of the corridor’s uniquely expansive size and superb SA. We are proud to provide clients a site to test their products – from platforms, command and control links to payloads. At the same time we are able to be flexible and adapt to the ever-changing needs and demands of our rapidly evolving industry. NUAIR is excited to be part of Gov. Cuomo’s vision for New York State to provide real value to the growing UAS industry now and for years to come.

We are currently on track to have the needed radar and technologies fully installed into the entire length of the corridor by September of this year. With this complete build-out of the 50-mile corridor we plan to have a capstone demonstration during our NY UAS Symposium held in September, which will entail a full 50-mile, unmanned flight from Oswego to Rome.

Tony Basile, Chief Operations Officer – NUAIR