Air Guard unit authorized to fly MQ-9 Reaper drones in Syracuse region

SYRACUSE (AP) — The commander of the Air National Guard unit that operates remotely piloted drones from its central New York base held a news conference to discuss the expansion of the airspace in which it operates.

Col. Greg Semmel of the Air National Guard’s 174th Attack Wing spoke to the media Monday morning at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, to announce the Federal Aviation Administration has authorized the use of 20 nautical miles more of air space for training missions, including, for the first time, parts of Onondaga and Madison Counties, and more of Oswego Counties. Semmel says the added airspace means fewer missions will be scrubbed or delayed because of weather, especially in lake effect season, when some parts of the current training range in the Adirondacks and over Lake Ontario get shut down by snow.

The group that’s been protesting drones at Hancock calls the news ‘very distressing.’  Ed Kinane,with Upstate Drone Action, says ‘they add to the surveillance state.  We’ve recently heard about the NSA and how it’s able to surveil all our communications.  The drones are the hardware of the military side of that.”

The drone training flights have been doing two missions daily, using about four planes.  Right now, they’re based at Ft. Drum’s airbase, with trainees going to and from the Watertown area daily.  Within the year, it’s hoped the drones will also get FAA approval to land and take off from Hancock, which will also cut down on transportation costs.

Full article: Air Guard unit authorized to fly MQ-9 Reaper drones in Syracuse region (CNY Central)

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