Hundreds of thousands of guests pass through the gates of the New York State Fair, but this year a new guest could be seen flying high above the crowds. Two state-owned drones were used for the first time to monitor weekend traffic conditions at the 13-day fair that ended Sept. 4.

“The New York State Fair attracts visitors from all corners of the state and beyond, and we want fairgoers to enjoy all that the fair has to offer,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “By using state-of-the-art drone technology, we will be able to better respond to changing traffic conditions and ensure a smoother travel experience for visitors.”

(Photo: New York State Fair)

The day before the fair opened, Cuomo announced that the drones would help the State Police and the State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) monitor weekend traffic and parking lot capacity, improving efficiency and reducing delays for fairgoers.

“As we continue to use cutting-edge technology like drones to improve our emergency response and environmental management efforts, [the Department of Environmental Conservation] is always available to assist our sister state agencies in helping to ensure public safety at events like the Great New York State Fair,” said Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos. “In addition to helping with traffic safety, this mission provides an important training opportunity for our staff.”

The drones, which are owned by the DEC, are a joint effort among the NYSDOT, the DEC, and New York State Police. Operators followed FAA guidelines regarding line of sight. Drones have a range of roughly one mile. That distance enables improved situation awareness, according to the governor’s office. State officials also noted that the drones cannot fly directly over crowds of people at the fair, or over traffic on the highway. Instead, the drones can fly down the shoulders of the highway to monitor traffic.

“This collaboration with our partners at DOT and DEC provides a new tool to monitor traffic conditions and make adjustments as needed,” said New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II. “Our priority is to ensure a safe and steady flow of traffic, and the best possible experience for those visiting the fair.”

The drone research and usage is part of a larger effort to boost economic activity in Central New York, according to state officials. According to the governor’s office, the announcement complements the region’s “Central NY Rising” initiative, which is the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. According to a release, New York State has already invested nearly $3 billion in the region since 2012 to lay the groundwork for the plan–capitalizing on global market opportunities, strengthening entrepreneurship, and creating an inclusive economy.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs