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Brick by Brick: Collegiate winner and finalists

By Awards, News
Donna Collins
July 29, 2021

Each year, Buffalo Business First honors the best in real estate, construction and development in Western New York. The UB Autonomy Center was selected as a finalist in the Collegiate Category.

UB Autonomy Center

Project: This is an enclosed drone-testing facility where University at Buffalo professors, students and partners can conduct experiments on uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs). The experiments on the UAVs will be used in research on autonomous technology, sensors and surveillance, small parcel delivery, logistics and drone fleets. The research facility, dubbed SOAR (Structure for Outdoor Autonomy Research), is 120 by 200 feet and 86 feet tall, and is believed to be the third largest outdoor-enclosed drone-testing facility in the nation. The Autonomy Center will place UB at the forefront of research and education and will aid in the advance of cutting-edge solutions that can improve everything from commerce and national security to emergency response and agriculture.

Address: Sprague Road (UB North-Crofts Lot), Getzville

Square footage: 24,000

Owner: University at Buffalo

Architect/engineers: DiDonato Associates Engineering & Architecture PC

General contractor: Rodriguez Construction Group Inc.

Other contractors: Gorilla Netting, Buffalo Drilling Co., Woodsmith Fence

Timeline: June-Oct. 2020

Cost: $825,000

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DiDonato Provides Design Services for UB Outdoor Drone Facility

By News

As part of our Term Agreement with SUNY at Buffalo, DiDonato provided design services for a 3.5 million cubic foot netted enclosure to cover approximately the 59,000 SF parking lot next to Crofts Hall on the North Campus.

Design included foundations, poles, and netting. Our Team also provided soil borings and on-site soil and concrete testing services; prepared construction documentation; assisted with evaluating bids; reviewed project submittals; and normal site investigations and inspections. DiDonato provided guidance on regulatory requirements and assisted in the submittal of required documentation, including to FAA and NYSDEC.

The structure is being used to perform research for Autonomous Drones.

To see the facility, click here

New Hires

By New Hires

DiDonato is pleased to welcome the following new employees:

  • Christian Hulse, PE is a Professional Engineer in New York State with 38 years of experience on transportation projects.  Chris recently retired from the NYS Thruway Authority where he was a Civil Engineer for 14 years.  Previous to that he spent 24 years as a Civil Engineer/Engineering Technician with the NYS Department of Transportation.  His work involved providing construction administration and inspection services for highway and bridge reconstruction projects.  He also provided hydraulic analysis services.  He is a 1989 graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo and holds a B.S. degree in Industrial Technology. Mr. Hulse will be providing Team Leader services on DiDonato’s NYSDOT Biennial Bridge Inspection Program – Region 5.


  • James Messana, EIT is joining our Civil Engineering group. He has six years of experience in analysis, design of transportation projects, and construction inspection.  He has been responsible for the preparation of contract documents including plans, proposal books and engineering reports.  He has assisted in design calculations for drainage systems and the estimation of items for resurfacing, restoration, traffic signals, and rehabilitation projects. James has experience with drafting, cost estimates and design calculations.  He is familiar with the NYSDOT Design Standards.  He is a 2013 graduation of Clarkson University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering.


  • Justin Lucarelli has three years of experience as an Assistant Bridge Inspector and Culvert Inspector for Biennial Bridge Inspection Programs and Large Culvert Inspection Programs in NYSDOT Regions 3, 4, 5, and 6. He holds a Masters of Science degree in Civil Engineering from UB.  He will join Chris Hulse as an Assistant Team Leader on our NYSDOT Biennial Bridge Inspection Program-Region 5.
Welcome to the DiDonato Family!