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Drone Tests Over Live Traffic in Syracuse Considered Groundbreaking

SUNY Upstate

A pilot says FAA approved drone test flights for Upstate Medical University in Syracuse this week are proving they can fly safely across the city.  Pilot Brendan Stewart who works for DroneUP says the length of flights completed here within a visual line of sight is groundbreaking because there was live street traffic below.

“We are the first to do deliveries over people and moving vehicles with no geographic restrictions.  All the tests that have been done in the past have been restricted to certain low risk test sites.”  

A flight demonstration today began with the drone lifting off from Upstate University Hospital’s helipad to their CNY Biotech Center several blocks away on Fayette Street.  Low speed flights clocked-in at eight minutes round-trip.  In the future, Stewart says drones could be helpful in the fight against COVID-19.  Recent test flights include delivering COVID test kits in a Buffalo suburb.

“So as the need arises, we can continue to implement these operations and make these logistic services available to communities that need to get COVID test kits and other high value items in people’s hands in short order without a lot of human contact.”

Credit John Smith / WAER News
A view of the helipad on top of Upstate University Hospital with a helicopter seen on the top right.  Drone tests flights over the city also took off from there this week.


The technology is so advanced that drones can easily deliver a package by unwinding a line to the ground while remaining high above.

“…usually get the package within 1 to 6 inches above the ground.  They (drone pilots) have a two factor release mechanism.  There’s a couple second delay and it releases the package.”    

Future uses could include flying medical samples, product and vaccines between SUNY Upstate’s downtown campus to their Community General Campus on Onondaga Hill.  Prior testing was completed with the assistance of NUAIR at Griffiss International Airport in Rome.  More than 12,000 drone pilots are licensed in the US. 

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.