A first: Drones will fly at 2017 NY State Fair to help control traffic

A first: Drones will fly at 2017 NY State Fair to help control traffic

By Mark Weiner Updated on August 24, 2017 at 4:48 PM

If you head to the 2017 New York State Fair this weekend, don't be surprised if you see small drones buzzing over the shoulder of Interstate 690 or hovering near the fair's parking lots.

For the first time, drones will be used by state agencies to monitor traffic and parking conditions at the fairgrounds in Geddes and help officials try to avoid long traffic jams that typically back up on Interstate 690.

Two small drones owned by the state Department of Environmental Conservation will provide real-time video of traffic starting this weekend, when the fair expects its biggest crowds. Weekends at the fair often attract more than 100,000 visitors per day.

New York State Police, Homeland Security, Department of Transportation and State Fair officials will monitor the video and alert travelers to traffic changes, parking lots that are near capacity, or accidents.

The alerts will be sent to electronic message signs along Interstate 690, Interstate 81, and Interstate 481, according to state DOT. The information also will be shared at 511ny.org, on Twitter at @NYSDOTSyracuse and on the New York State Thruway's variable message sign network.

The idea is to help travelers make any adjustments to their routes before they approach the fairgrounds, DOT officials said.

Traffic congestion was a problem on the final Saturday of the fair last year, when 121,164 people showed up and set a new daily attendance record for the date. It took some travelers up to two hours to reach the fairgrounds.

In other years, traffic has backed up along Interstate 690 from the fairgrounds to the Syracuse city line.

State officials say the drones will only be used on weekends this year, and they will comply with strict rules set by the Federal Aviation Administration. The drones will not be allowed to fly directly over crowds of people at the fair, or over traffic on the highway.

The drones, weighing about 7 pounds each, will fly no higher than 400 feet, and will be in the line of sight of remote operators at all times, according to the DOT.

A DOT spokeswoman said the information collected by the drones will be monitored by the DOT's Traffic Management Center in Syracuse, which will also have a mobile trailer unit operating 24 hours a day at the fair. The drone video feed will not be available for public viewing.

In addition to the drones, the state will rely on its fixed highway cameras and reports from state police and others on the ground to help manage traffic during the 13-day fair.


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