By J. Sharpe Smith

5G is coming to the New York State 50-mile unmanned aircraft systems corridor between Syracuse and Rome, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced last week. What is said to be the first FAA-designated UAS test site with a bespoke 5G network will be installed by the MITRE Engenuity Open Generation 5G Consortium, which is a collaborative effort to accelerate 5G use cases for Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS) programs, public safety, remote healthcare, smart cities, and autonomous vehicles.

NUAIR, a New York-based nonprofit UAS organization, manages New York’s 50-mile unmanned aircraft systems corridor and will help to implement the 5G network. With coordination from NUAIR, the corridor will include an experimentation hub with more than 100 square miles dedicated to 5G beyond-visual-line-of-site testing and long-range flight paths.  

“The industry is looking for an FAA and FCC approved communications network that has the capability and reliability needed for safe commercial drone operations,” NUAIR CEO Ken Stewart said. “5G holds the promise of unlocking scalable, economically viable drone operations and we are confident that our work in New York will help determine if 5G is a suitable solution for the UAS industry.”  

New York State invested $30 million in 2016 to develop the 50-mile flight traffic management system between Syracuse and Griffiss International Airport in Rome. In total, the state has invested nearly $70 million over the past five years on the UAS in central New York and the Mohawk Valley. 

Verizon, whose Skyward UAS company is already testing 5G connectivity for drones, wrote last week of the “huge” possibilities that 5G represents for drones. In the future, 5G is expected to support emerging uses of UAS in agriculture and forest management, transportation and logistics, media and film development, utilities and infrastructure, and public safety.

“The high bandwidth and low latency of 5G will open up the ability to gather data and analyze it in near real time,” the carrier wrote. “This is where we start to get into some truly transformational changes, such as routine drone package deliveries and the emergence of autonomous airborne taxis, carrying passengers high above crowded city streets.”