Drone Companies Snag $7.5 Million Air Force Contract to Develop UTM

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Two New York drone companies have flown into a cloud of sweet, sweet government dollars after receiving a $7.75 million grant from the Air Force Research Lab.

UAS provider AX Enterprize of Yorkville, N.Y. and drone UTM company Thales USA will use the money to investigate state-of-the-art air traffic management (ATM) systems to gauge how civilian and military drone systems can safely coexist alongside manned aviation in the National Airspace System.

The project will be completed at the Griffiss UAS Test Site in Rome, N.Y. through a partnership the two companies as well as collaboration with NUAIR, Scherzi Systems LLC and Syracuse University’s Center for Advanced Systems and Engineering (CASE) and Autonomous Systems Policy Institute (ASPI).

“The Air Force made the right choice by selecting AX, Thales USA and the existing UAS infrastructure in Rome for this critical work. These investments are exactly the kind we envisioned when we secured the FAA Test Site in Rome and why I make it a priority to increase funding for Rome Lab each year,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

“We believe this is an opportunity for AX to play an important role in advancing the UAS industry in the U.S. while maintaining safety and security in the National Airspace System,” said Pat Baskinger, CEO of AX Enterprize. “AX is thrilled to be a part of this unique moment in aviation history.”

“Seamless integration of civil and military manned and unmanned operations will be a significant game changer for airspace management,” said Todd Donovan, Vice President for ATM – Americas for Thales. “Thales is proud to be a part of such an activity and to bring our decisive technologies along with our local presence to this market-shaping effort here in Central New York State.”

Before multiple large or small UAS can fly in the same airspace as other aircraft, procedures need to be developed for drone pilots to safely detect and avoid other air traffic. The project will develop a policy approach and data exchange models – using high-definition air traffic surveillance and ground-based sense-avoid radar technology at Griffiss – to ensure that UAS and manned aircraft can operate within close proximity safely in the National Airspace System (NAS).

AX Enterprize constructed the FAA’s New York UAS Test Site Operations and Data Management Center at Griffiss International Airport, which it still maintains today.


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