Picente Announces Completion of $13 Million Skydome Project, Nation's Largest Indoor UAS Testing Center

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. today announced the completion of Skydome, the nation's largest indoor UAS testing facility at Griffiss International Airport. 

"Like the Wolfspeed chip fab, and the soon-to-be completed MVHS Wynn Hospital and Nexus Center sports complex, the opening of Skydome is another transformational project that will spur new jobs and investment in Oneida County, and further demonstrates why we have one of the most robust and diverse economies in the Northeast," Picente said. "From its inception, this ambitious county project set out to solidify Oneida County and New York State as the global epicenter for drone research and development and with today's Skydome opening, we have done just that."

Located in a former airplane hangar, this cutting-edge, indoor facility is the largest indoor drone test facility in the nation and a transformational investment in New York's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site at Oneida County.

Skydome will support collaborative efforts between the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate and the New York UAS Test Site, leveraging the region's high tech commercial and academic ecosystem supporting the development of technologies for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems to operate safely and securely in the National Air Space.

With the completion of Skydome, New York State is now home to the largest indoor Anechoic Chambered Unmanned Aerial Vehicle experimentation facility in the United States, and will provide year-round, indoor testing of advanced drone technologies, including artificial intelligence-based flight controls and autonomous swarms of small drones.

"New York State has made bold investments to create a competitive environment to attract high tech companies from around the world," said New York State Governor Kathy Hochul. "Skydome joins a growing number of technology companies in calling New York their home and cements Mohawk Valley's status as a global center for innovation. We will remain laser-focused on continuing our landmark investments throughout the state, and forge strong partnerships between all levels of government partner and the public sector."

Skydome is located in a facility owned by Oneida County which also houses Innovare Advancement Center, where the Griffiss Institute powers the region's innovation ecosystem in artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, neuromorphic computing, nanoelectronics, quantum computing and UAS. It also contains the Drone Command Center for the New York State Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site, one of only seven FAA-Designated unmanned aircraft systems test sites in the United States.

This $13 million project created and developed by Oneida County, is funded by $4 million from the county, and supported by the State through a $4.5 million grant from the CNY Rising Upstate Revitalization Initiative and $4.5 million grant from the Mohawk Valley Upstate Revitalization Initiative. State Senator Joseph Griffo has also secured a $950,000 grant for the facility.

"The completion of the Skydome UAS Testing Center is a huge win for New York State, making it the largest facility of its kind in the nation," said Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado. "Revitalization initiatives like this one are proof that New York is on the right track. This new cutting-edge facility places New York at the forefront of unmanned aerial vehicle development."

The Skydome test site is part of the ever-growing 3,500-acre Griffiss Business and Technology Park, a former U.S. Air Force Base, which is now home to a multitude of high-tech, world-leading companies in cyber security, quantum computing, manufacturing among others that employs nearly 6,000 people.

Skydome is just the latest infrastructure investment at Griffiss International Airport that has been made bv Oneida County. In 2019, the county invested $15.5 million to replace antiquated central steam heat in the hangars with new radiant heating dramatically changing the cost structure and making the facilities cost-competitive. At the same time, the county invested another $5.6 million in creating the Innovare Advancement Center which is leading the way in helping to foster a high-tech ecosystem in support of the Air Force Research Lab and the UAS Test Site.

New York State has invested nearly $70 million to establish itself as the nation's premier destination for drones and businesses at the forefront of innovation. This includes the completion of the nation's first, 50-mile unmanned traffic management drone corridor, which runs from Central New York to the Mohawk Valley and the approval by the FAA for portions of the corridor to fly unmanned aircraft beyond visual line of sight. This is the first "true" BVLOS authority granted to the FAA-designated test site which allows unmanned aircraft testing without the need for ground-based observers.

Empire State Development President and CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, "UAS technology has the potential to unlock new avenues of economic growth in areas such as public safety and ecommerce, and the New York State's forward-thinking investments in this industry has attracted significant investment from both the public and private sectors. Skydome is the latest transformational project that will drive industry growth and innovation in the Mohawk Valley for generations to come."

NUAIR CEO Ken Stewart said, "NUAIR has been managing the New York UAS Test Site since the FAA-designation over ten years ago and we continue to have a great collaborative partnership with the State, Oneida County and surrounding organizations. With our 50-mile drone corridor, bespoke private 5G test range, and the now addition of Skydome, Central New York continues to be the leading destination for UAS and Advanced Air Mobility companies to land and expand their operations."

Griffiss Institute President and CEO Heather Hage said, "At the Griffiss Institute, we're proud to empower innovation and entrepreneurship in the Mohawk Valley. The Skydome launch represents yet another big step forward in developing world-class research and testing capabilities so we can do just that. Autonomous systems that enable safe, secure, and reliable uncrewed vehicle operations hold massive potential to solve our most pressing societal challenges and open transformational economic opportunities for Upstate New York. Skydome will make possible a future in which the sky is no longer the limit."

State Senator Joseph A. Griffo said, "I am pleased that the Skydome facility in the Griffiss Business and Technology Park in Rome has been completed and to have secured funding for this project. This cutting-edge and innovative indoor space will enhance the development of Unmanned Aircraft Systems and related technologies and build upon the significant and important collaboration taking place every day here in the Mohawk Valley."

Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon said, "The completion of the Sky Dome right here in Oneida County only further solidifies that this region and community are becoming an emerging force in innovation and technology fields internationally. This project is a testament to our investment in the Mohawk Valley to make it a premiere destination for UAS test sites, drones, and technological businesses. The continuation of growth at the Griffiss Business and Technology Park is extraordinary and has been a driving force in the economic development in Oneida County."

Rome Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo said, "Today marks a significant accomplishment for Oneida County, the City of Rome, the New York UAS test site and the Air Force Research Laboratory with the opening of the largest indoor test drone facility in the country. With the commitment of Governor Hochul and the State of New York, the completion of the $13 million Skydome test area reinforces our dedication to providing the very best FAA UAS test facility in the nation. We look forward to welcoming UAS research specialists and their teams from all over the country and the world to Skydome as they continue the research necessary to integrate the drones into the fabric of everyday air travel such as testing the transportation of vital lifesaving medical supplies, assisting in natural disasters and much more with the enhanced testing capabilities available at Skydome."