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New GE subsidiary plans office in central NY drone zone

New GE subsidiary plans office in central NY drone zone

AiRXOS, based in Boston, works to integrate growing drone industry into airspace
New GE subsidiary plans office in central NY drone zone
Photographer: Shutterstock

BOSTON — AiRXOS, a new General Electric subsidiary working to integrate drone operations with traditional flight activity, will set up an office in Syracuse to be part of ongoing drone research in the Mohawk Valley and central New York.

GE formally introduced AiRXOS on Thursday, but the new company had already begun working in the rapidly growing unmanned aircraft system (UAS) industry, mainly in air traffic control.

AiRXOS (pronounced AIR-ose — the X is silent) is headquartered in Boston. Much of its work will be done out of Boston, particularly software development, but some functions will be based at the GE Aviation facility in Grand Rapids, Michigan. GE isn't disclosing the size of the AiRXOS workforce, but said it has already tripled since the company's creation.

Its central New York office will be in the Tech Garden, a Syracuse business incubator. That office will support AiRXOS’ collaboration with the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance, a coalition of more than 200 private, public and academic entities working to conduct and oversee unmanned aircraft system testing in New York, Massachusetts and Michigan.

Headquartered in Syracuse, the Alliance supports the New York UAS Test Site at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, one of just seven FAA-designated UAS test sites in the United States. 

State leaders have been promoting the initiative as an economic development opportunity. In 2016, Empire State Development invested $30 million to create a 50-mile drone test corridor between Syracuse and Rome in the form of a Central New York Rising Upstate Revitalization Initiative Grant. 

The corridor was the first of its kind in the nation and is now the most advanced such testing area, state officials said.

Remotely controlled aircraft — called drones informally and unmanned aircraft systems formally — are proliferating rapidly, both for recreational and commercial uses. Their safe operation, especially when out of sight of their operators, is a key part of AiRXOS’ business model, and the new company already has been selected for several projects that will develop the infrastructure and operational model to accomplish this.

In central New York, AiRXOS and the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance will attempt to enhance drone safety and security, and in so doing, boost the region’s efforts to become a global hub for the drone industry.

Specifically, AiRXOS will automate the processes used by commercial operators, pilots, organizations and drone manufacturers to engage in commercial flight operations.

“Unlocking opportunities in autonomy and UAS advanced operations have never been more promising,” AiRXOS General Manager Kenneth Stewart said in a prepared statement. “This collaboration with NUAIR is a significant step in helping achieve advanced UAS safety and efficiency in the central New York area.” 

The central New York initiative will support development of drone use by industries including agriculture and forest management, transportation and logistics, media and film development, utilities and infrastructure, and public safety.

Stewart noted that General Electric itself has been using drones and drone technology for some time, giving its new subsidiary AiRXOS the infrastructure it needs to open new markets for autonomous flight technology.

The U.S. Department of Transportation chose AiRXOS as the partner in three of the 10 pilot programs it is running to help government agencies, municipalities, regional aviation authorities and private sector operators manage the increasing demand for safe drone operations.

AiRXOS will work with the cities of San Diego and Memphis and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma to develop drone traffic management systems and demonstrate capabilities, including operations at night, operations above urban areas or flights that extend beyond the pilot’s line of sight.

Also, AiRXOS was one of four partners announced Thursday to develop a communication and sensor network on a 35-mile Smart Mobility Corridor in Ohio, which will feed detection and tracking data to a state traffic management center to allow better traffic monitoring and incident response. Once a drone management system is in place, the corridor will be able to support future autonomous operations, such as package delivery and air taxi services.

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