Rome Welcomes Skydome, the Nation's Largest Drone Testing Facility

July 18, 2022

Jul. 16—ROME, N.Y. — Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the completion of Skydome at Griffiss Business and Technology Park. The $13 million facility is the largest testing center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or drones, in the country.

Skydome is located in a former airplane hangar in the park and is the result of over $100 million in investments by New York state and Oneida County.

"New York State has made bold investments to create a competitive environment to attract high tech companies from around the world," Hochul said in a news release. "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."

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.

"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," Rome Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo said,

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.

"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," Izzo said.

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.

"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," Griffo said.

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 employ nearly 6,000 people.

Skydome is just the latest infrastructure investment at Griffiss International Airport that has been made by 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.

"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," Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr. 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."


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