This is the DT-18, one of Flyterra's commercially-available drones. Photo: Flyterra
Just days after the Federal Aviation Administration announced the six states where businesses could test drones, the site in New York is ready to announce its first client.
The site's operator, NUAIR, is made up of private companies, New York universities, and military entities, and is set to announce today that Flyterra, a New York City-based drone company, will become the first client at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, NY, according to The Post-Standard, based in Syracuse.
Sen. Chuck Schumer and US Rep. Dan Maffei are expected to make the announcement sometime today at Syracuse University. Neither Schumer nor Maffei’s offices responded to request for comment from Motherboard. The Associated Press is reporting that Schumer will push the FAA to allow New York’s test site to become one of the first to become operational.
According to its website, Flyterra, which has an office in Manhattan and one at Quebec’s Alma airport, manufactures two lightweight drones that weigh less than five pounds and the company is working on two other drones. The company also offers satellite imaging and 3D mapping services. It says its drones have or could be hired to survey open pit mines, check pipelines, perform aerial surveys on farms, search and rescue missions after a disaster, and monitor wildlife.
The company was created in 2012 and already operates commercially in Canada and France and is hoping to become one of the first to legally operate in the United States.
So far, no other drone test sites have announced who their first clients will be. Even with Schumer’s urging, it’s unclear when NUAIR will be cleared by the FAA to begin operating the test site. Brendan Schulman, one of the first American lawyers helping companies manage the FAA’s regulatory hurdles, says that “the announcement of the test sites doesn’t yet tell us all that much about how they’ll be used and how they’ll apply in the future” and that “it’s not clear when they’ll become operational.”
Even after testing, it’s unclear what Flyterra will have to prove to the FAA in order to get a commercial drone operating license, and how long the overall process will take. Congress has set a deadline of 2015 for the commercial integration of drones into American skies, but the FAA has thus far missed many of the congressionally-imposed deadlines.
This post will be updated when we hear more details from Schumer, Flyterra, or NUAIR.