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NUAIR To Launch First-In-The-Nation Wireless Network For Drones

A drone sits on the ground at the New York Unmanned Aerial Systems test site.
A drone sits on the ground at the New York Unmanned Aerial Systems test site.

A 50-mile drone test corridor in Central New York is about to get some long-range fuel: the nation's first 5G network specifically for unmanned aircraft systems.

NUAIR CEO and President Ken Stewart said the company want to test how far long-range communications can last with drones in flight.

"They’ll be able to utilize all of the spectrum that they have available in those radios on the towers with what they call software-defined edge, and so what that means is that they can prioritize spectrum for specific operations," Stewart said.

The goal is to demonstrate to the Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Communications Commission the 5G networks are accurate and reliable to safely fly drones. Verizon Wireless is providing the 5G capability all along the drone test corridor from Rome to Syracuse, while Nokia is providing radios on the towers for communications to navigate the drones.

Stewart said the network should be operational within two months.

"Once set up, we’re going to go through rigorous testing to make sure we have the coverages required to perform some of these operations," Stewart said.

That'll include supporting public safety and the delivery of packages and healthcare needs.

The total airspace for unmanned aerial systems will span more than 100 miles and will be coordinated by NUAIR. The airspace for commercial drone use is specified at under 400 feet. The testing is a part of the Mitre Engenuity Open Generation 5G Consortium.