Updated: May 11, 2024 @ 10:06 am

CNY Drones is a volunteer run, community-based organization promoting drone-focused, STEM-based, workforce development pathways to the tech education & employment pipeline.  

Our goal is to encourage exploration of the many opportunities created by New York State’s UAV Test Site & Corridor championed by affiliated organizations & educational institutions.   We encourage students through hosted competitions, mentoring, workshops, demos,
& technical support.

Our STEM experience includes development of 3 Northeast Team Drone Challenges (2018-2020), introductory flying sessions, interactive exhibits, build workshops, tech meets, mini-challenges AND since 2021, league & technical support for
U.S. Drone Soccer.   

Established in January 2016 through a year of meetings with key representatives from Central New York’s commercial, educational & recreational UAS Community, CNY Drones was the first organization established specifically to connect students, educators & industry surrounding New York’s UAS Test Site & Corridor.   Our focus remains on attracting & maintaining student interest, funneling into workforce development programs, higher education & future employment opportunities.  We are engineers, educators & enthusiasts with years of technical training experience & a passion for drone technology.  


Our organization is run virtually, with no brick & mortar office space, tapping volunteer Planning Committee Members located in the Utica/Rome area of New York State.  We are housed fiscally (FSO) under the 501(c)3 of The Griffiss Institute, Rome, NY.   Our major equipment is graciously housed at SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Utica, NY. 

CNY Drones efforts feed into the drone tech education & employment pipeline.

Workforce Development Starts Early.

STEM Focused.  Community Supported.  Volunteer Driven.

“Research suggests that personal interest, experience, and enthusiasm—critical to children’s learning of science at school or other settings—may also be linked to later educational and career choices.” – nextgenscience.org

Our Programs   

2023 Impact (.pdf)

Our Accomplishments (page)


Community Connections  

We’ve reached thousands of students

& adults throughout New York State!


Experienced Mentors & Administrators

Dozens of years of combined STEM experience & passionate mentors are behind all our efforts!  We fly for the love of flying & share for the love of sharing technology!  We have various backgrounds with a common enthusiasm for drones & for developing a safe & knowledgeable drone community!

  • We are part of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) as AMA Model Aviation Student Club # 15080.
  • We provide some of the most experienced U.S. Drone Soccer Certified Instructors in the Country.
  • CNY Drones mentors are known in NY’s tech education community as NYSTEEA Members, NYSCATE Members & FAA Certified sUAS Pilots.
  • Our proven hands-on training method includes 1 mentor for every 3 students plus a program facilitator for every 9 students.

Operations – CNY Drones Planning Committee

We meet weekly to discuss recent connections, issues & future plans.    Committee members work in our community with our sister organization, SUNY Poly AMA UMASC.  We hail from a variety of organizations.  

  • Air Force Research Lab – Rome NY
  • Black River Systems Co. Inc.
  • JH Rhodes Co. div. of Universal Photonics, Inc.
  • Quanterion Solutions Incorporated
  • RIT
  • SUNY Polytechnic Institute
  • Wolfspeed, Inc.

Club Partnerships & Mentoring

AMA MASC 15080  & UMASC 15104 Mentors

We work closely with the CGAM / Tech Clubs at SUNY Polytechnic Institute. SUNY Poly AMA UMASC #15104, Wildcat Robotics, 3D Printing, Women in Engineering, IEEE, and Baja clubs have all assisted CNY Drones in developing student interest in drone technology.

Our projects bring the community on campus & college students into the community.  SUNY AMA regularly hosts events.  Their members often travel with us.   We appreciate the continued support & commitment of SUNY Polytechnic Institute engineering students from  CGAM clubs – AMA UMASC, Wildcat Robotics, 3D Printing & Baja.   They’ve worked together to set a great example & help raise the bar higher at every event!

More on Operations

What makes CNY Drones special?

“It’s not one thing. It’s a variety of backgrounds and a variety of approaches – all focused on the same results.  We’re here to promote drones in STEM and grow a safe & connected recreational flying community.  We’re committed to offering low-cost programs that allow access to all.  We understand our part is key to sparking interest in the drone education & employment pipeline.  We see the importance of having accessible mentors who keep up to date on technology improvements & use the technology regularly.  Key to our growth has been the willingness to share far beyond the bounds of any program we offer.  Those who stick with us have access to a great deal of experience and support – and fun!”  

– Robert A. Payne, III, CNY Drones Volunteer Coordinator & Co-Founder