March 24, 2023

Oneida County’s UAS Test Site Receives New FAA Flight Authority

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County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. announced today that Oneida County’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Test Site at Griffiss International Airport in Rome has been authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate drones up to 300 pounds throughout its 50-mile flight corridor to Syracuse.

“This new FAA designation removes some previous restrictions making it easier to test larger drones,” Picente said. “Our test site is already the global leader for UAS research and development, and now, we will be able to test more advanced operations and be financially compensated for it. This is great news for Oneida County, our partners at the Test Site and for the businesses and agencies who use our facility to advance the industry.”

For the past 10 years, Oneida County’s test site has been operating under the Public Aircraft Operations authority. Per that previous authority, the test site was required to petition the FAA for a Special Airworthiness Certificate-Experimental Category and an exemption, which was a time-consuming and resources intensive process for both the county and the FAA.

The new authority — known as the “Charlie Waiver” — allows the county’s test site to support its customers in conducting flight test of platforms, systems, concepts of operation and other capabilities on drones up to 300 pounds including:

  • Research, development testing and evaluation
  • Operational suitability demonstrations
  • Familiarization flights
  • Crew training flights
  • Likely failure & specific demonstration testing
  • Nosie testing
  • Flights to substantiate major design changes
  • Flights to show compliance with the function & reliability requirements of the regulations
  • Market survey
  • Flights that are part of the durability and reliability-based means of compliance type certificate

“The significance of the Charlie waiver is that it will enable the FAA-designated UAS test sites’ qualified customers to conduct flight-testing with drones weighing under 300 pounds in an accelerated manner,” an FAA spokesperson said. “The Charlie Waiver will transform the field of drone research and development by making it easier and more efficient to conduct these operations.”     

The Oneida County-owned UAS Test Site is one of just seven in the U.S. Its operation is a partnership between the county, AX Enterprize and NUAIR. The site has conducted more than 5,000 test flights over the past decade and has completed multiple projects with the FAA and NASA to advance the UAS industry.

Oneida County Partners