Why Central New York?

World-Leading UAS & AAM Industry Hub

Central New York (or greater Syracuse, New York region) is emerging as the epicenter for innovation in Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS) and Advanced Air Mobility (AAM), solidifying New York’s status as a premier destination for drone-related businesses and growth.

GENIUS NY collaborates closely with its partner, NUAIR, to drive innovation within the aviation industry forward. NUAIR operates the Center of Excellence for Advanced Air Mobility in Syracuse Hancock International Airport and has over a decade of historical management of the only non-academic UAS test site in the United States. Through strategic partnerships with regional economic development agencies and industry stakeholders, NUAIR delivers the next generation of UAS/AAM solutions for the safety, societal, and economic benefits of New York State and beyond.

Together, GENIUS NY and NUAIR are at the forefront of propelling the UAS/AAM industry forward and shaping its future trajectory.

Commercialization and Expansion of Drone Corridor

In April 2023, New York’s 50-Mile Drone Corridor – an FAA Designated Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS) testing facility managed by NUAIR – received a new civil authority to advance the research, development, and commercialization of drone operations.  

This will make it easier for the test site – which runs from the Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR) to the Griffiss International Airport (RME) – to accommodate larger drones testing commercial operations. The site can now operate drones weighing under 300 pounds throughout the corridor and be compensated for operations. Previously, the site operated under a public aircraft operations authority, only allowing “research and development and other core governmental functions.”  

This new civil authority opens the door for scalable, commercial operations, accelerating the UAS and advanced air mobility (AAM) industries as a whole. 

In December, the FAA granted an extension of this Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) corridor to 240 square miles – a 300% increase over the previously authorized zone. 

A New Era for AAM in Syracuse

In October 2023, the prominent role Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR) is playing in the advancement of Advanced Air Mobility (AAM), Small Uncrewed Aerial Systems (SUAS), and Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) was showcased on the national stage. The Department of Transportation’s AAM Interagency Working Group held a summit which brought federal, state, and local agencies to SYR to discuss the challenges and opportunities in integrating advanced aviation technologies into the National Airspace System.  

Rich Aerospace Expertise

Central New York boasts a wealth of aerospace expertise with industry giants like Lockheed Martin, SRC, and Saab calling the region home. Startups benefit from access to mentorship, resources, and potential collaborations with these established players. 

Only Seven FAA-Designated UAS Test Sites in the Nation

We are home to one of just seven FAA-designated UAS test sites in the nation which conducts operations for UAS and advanced air mobility (AAM) testing. 

In 2016, New York state committed a $30 million investment to develop a 50-mile drone test corridor between Syracuse and Rome through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative. This is the world’s first 50-mile Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) Corridor and is a global leader for testing UAS platforms and innovations.  

Additionally, in 2020, officials unveiled Skydome, a small uncrewed aerial system, or SUAS, experimentation and test facility at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, Oneida County.

What makes the New York UAS Test Site Unique? 

  • It is the only FAA-designated UAS Test Site housed on an active towered airport.
  • The site has conducted over 3,900 successful UAS test flights to date and counting.
  • The corridor spans 50 miles which includes rural and urban environments and a wide range of population densities.
  • The site has one of the longest spans of approved BVLOS airspace in the country (35 miles).
  • The site is currently integrating the nation’s first bespoke 5G network to be used solely for UAS Traffic Management development and advanced drone operations.
  • In NY, you have the ability to conduct cold weather and wind disruption testing to validate systems to current standards (four seasons).
  • The site has a Designated Airworthiness Representative (DAR) designated by the United States Federal Aviation Administration to act on its behalf in the certification of type certificated and amateur-built aircraft for the issuance of airworthiness certificates, special flight permits, import aircraft, export certificates for products and articles, conformity inspections, and field approvals for repair and alterations.

New York State Funded Projects:

Since 2016, the state has been making robust investments to supercharge the industry, including: 

  • An initial investment of $35 million to develop the 50-mile UAS flight traffic management system. 
  • International AAM Corridor Development at Syracuse Hancock International Airport.
  • $9 million for Skydome, Oneida County’s indoor drone testing facility.
  • More than $20 million to support NUAIR’s growth and development.
  • More than $25 million for five rounds of the GENIUS NY accelerator.
  • $16.6 million in ongoing investments for the Tech Garden incubator expansion in downtown Syracuse to help grow its UAS industry efforts.

Quality of Life

It’s called the “Salt City” for a reason. There are plenty of ways Syracuse brings flavor into your company, as well as your work and home life.

Whether you prefer to spend time indoors or outside, there are a myriad of activities you can partake in or around Syracuse

  • The arts scene is thriving with classical music, Broadway shows, and the Everson Museum of Art.
  • Syracuse’s food and craft beer culture bring the flavor – salt potatoes with a Middle Ages draft, anyone?
  • Recreation is plentiful both in City parks as well as just outside the City – the Adirondacks are only 2 hours away.
  • Scared of winter? No need to be! From cross-country skiing to a relaxing massage in Skaneateles, there are plenty of ways to embrace what winter has to offer!
  • Man pilots flying drone in Syracuse park
  • Brick apartment building in downtown Syracuse
  • Members of The Tech Garden pilot drones in downtown Syracuse
  • Hanging basket of flowers outside Pasta's Daily Bread in downtown Syracuse
  • Fresh rosemary plants at Syracuse's Clinton Square farmer's market
  • Syracuse city skyline
  • Mural on brick building reads "The Heart of Syracuse"
  • Very large crowd gathers for festival in Syracuse's Clinton Square

Other Exciting Advancements on the Horizon… 

Beyond our already flourishing tech ecosystem, Central New York is on the cusp of even more developments: 

Micron’s Expansion to Central New York: 

In 2022, Micron announced its plans to build the largest semiconductor fabrication facility in the history of the United States. Micron intends to invest up to $100 billion over the next 20-plus years to construct a new megafab in Clay, New York, with the first-phase investment of $20 billion planned by the end of this decade. The new megafab will increase domestic supply of leading-edge memory, create nearly 50,000 New York jobs and represent the largest private investment in New York state history. Micron will design, build and operate the facility in accordance with its sustainability goals. 

Syracuse Designated a Federal Tech Hub: 

Syracuse, Buffalo, and Rochester have been designated as a Federal Tech Hub, signifying their pivotal roles in driving innovation and technological advancement within the state. This designation acknowledges the substantial talent, resources, and infrastructure present in these cities, positioning them as focal points for future tech-driven growth and development. It’s part of the federal government’s plan to spread the technology economy beyond Silicon Valley. 

The Tech Garden’s $32M Expansion is Underway: 

The Tech Garden incubator in downtown Syracuse, home to the GENIUS NY accelerator is currently undergoing a major expansion and set to be finished in Spring of 2025. The project will include a two-story, 46,000 square-foot addition, renovations to the facility’s existing space, and updates to the on-site mechanical and security systems. Expansion of The Tech Garden includes a 5,000-square-foot roof terrace for uncrewed aerial systems companies to launch and test drones, a 3,000-square-foot meeting room with seating for up to 180, private tenant offices for 35 additional resident startups, coworking areas, an expanded hardware space for prototype and product development, and a new entrance. The building will receive an entirely new façade that will better reflect the world- class innovation ecosystem supported by the building. The expanded space will also allow for enhanced programming to support inclusive entrepreneurial growth, at all stages of their startup journey and regardless of industry. 

Defense Manufacturing Support Communities Program Awardee: 

The Upstate Defense Consortium, in partnership with Empire State Development, CenterState CEO, the Griffiss Institute, Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families and FuzeHub received a $5 million award through the Defense Manufacturing Support Communities Program. The federal grant will be used to expand educational, workforce training and job placement programming in the microelectronics and defense manufacturing industries. 

These advancements underscore Central New York’s position as a hub for innovation, technology, and economic growth. With a dynamic tech ecosystem, strategic initiatives, and partnerships, the region is poised to achieve even greater heights in the years to come.