Today, County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. declared that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has authorized Oneida County’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Test Site at Griffiss International Airport in Rome to fly drones weighing up to 300 pounds along 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.”

Over the last decade, Oneida County’s test site has been functioning under the Public Aircraft Operations jurisdiction. Under this prior jurisdiction, the test site had to request a Special Airworthiness Certificate-Experimental Category and an exemption from the FAA, which was a burdensome and resource-intensive procedure for both the county and the FAA.

The latest authorization, dubbed the “Charlie Waiver,” permits Oneida County’s test site to aid its clients in testing drones weighing up to 300 pounds by conducting flight tests of various capabilities, including:

  • Research, development, testing, and evaluation
  • Operational suitability demonstrations
  • Familiarization flights
  • Crew training flights
  • Probable failure and specific demonstration testing
  • Noise testing
  • Flights to verify significant design changes
  • Flights to establish compliance with regulatory function and reliability requirements
  • Market surveys
  • 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.”  

Oneida County’s UAS Test Site, owned by the county and operated in collaboration with AX Enterprise and NUAIR, is one of only seven such sites in the United States. Over the last ten years, the site has carried out over 5,000 test flights and has worked on several initiatives with the FAA and NASA to promote the growth of the UAS industry. (Press Release)

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