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

(STRAT RISKS)   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.

National Guard officials say the Federal Aviation Administration has authorized the wing to operate MQ-9 Reapers in airspace south of Fort Drum in the Syracuse region.

The 174th switched three years ago from flying F-16 fighter jets to operating unmanned aircraft from Hancock Field. The drones operated from the Syracuse base support military operations in Afghanistan.

The unit conducts training exercises at Fort Drum, located 70 miles north of Syracuse.

Just last month, a group of activists and called upon the Syracuse Common Council to declare the skies over the city a “Surveillance Drone Free Zone” citing privacy laws. Members of NUAIR also appeared before councilors. The coalition is competing against other regions to be designated as a test site for the development of unmanned aircraft by the FAA. Public Safety Committee Chairman Jake Barrett said at the time that there is no formal legislation calling for a drone ban at this time.


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