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House approves $7.7 million for drone operation at Falls airbase

The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is in line for $7.7 million in federal funding for construction of facilities for drone operations, it was announced Thursday evening.

The funding for the drone program was included in a military appropriations bill passed by the House and helps secure its future in the face of any possible cutbacks under the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission, according to Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, and Rep Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo.

“Having state-of-the-art remotely piloted aircraft missions originate from NFARS is a testament to the base’s infrastructure and the capabilities of the hardworking Western New Yorkers who help operate the base,” Collins said.

Higgins, a member of the House Committees on Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs, said, “This federal investment reaffirms the goal of expanding the mission at the base and positioning the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station for a secure future in this community for years to come.”

The congressmen had written to the Appropriations Committee to request full funding for the program.

The MQ-9 Reaper is the first Remotely Piloted Aircraft constructed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance and is primarily used overseas to collect intelligence and carry out precise military strikes. The current operations facility at the airbase was not constructed for that mission and needs to be upgraded so the operation can be under one roof.