August 6, 2013
Central New York's Air National Guard wing will soon be flying its drones over the city of Syracuse for training missions.
The new airspace covers corners of Madison and Oswego Counties. But the big change is that the MQ-9 Reaper drones will now fly over the northern half of the city of Syracuse in Onondaga County.
Before, the training flights were restricted to Lake Ontario and the Adirondack Mountains.
The 174th Attack Wing says their drones will not target civilians or carry weapons. And they’ll fly higher than commercial aircraft.
Commander Greg Semmel says the change will be undetectable to civilians on the ground. "At the altitudes we're going to be flying the airplane, above 18,000 feet, like I said. In this this chunk of new airspace, I'll be very honest, they'll very likely never see the airplane."
The drones will still take off from Fort Drum army base near Watertown. Commander Semmel says they're currently seeking approval to take off from Syracuse.
Hancock Field in Syracuse has been a regular target for protests from peace activists since it started operating drones three years ago. The Syracuse Peace Council says it's concerned about privacy and has been lobbying city lawmakers to put in restrictions on drone use.
With its pilots stationed here, the 174th remotely flies missions for U.S. military operations overseas.