Drone steering committee continues its work

The Michigan Unmanned Aerial Systems Center Steering Committee met via teleconference on Wednesday to work out a few details involving the third of six submittals to the Federal Aviation Administration’s “Screening of Information Request” for six center of excellence designations for the training and testing of unmanned aircrafts in the United States.

Alpena County Commissioners Cam Habermehl and Tom Mullaney are members of the committee and if the federal government selects the Michigan group, it could lead to a large amount of economic development in the region.

Habermehl said the committee, which is made up of private companies and industry leaders, major universities, government agencies, the Michigan National Guard and Alpena County Regional Airport and county leaders, along with consultant SeaTech and Explorer Solutions, met to discuss the process moving forward. He said the consultants are preparing to submit the third round of information that the FAA has in its SIR. The new data needs to be submitted to the government in the next week, Habermehl said. According to Habermehl, the Michigan Economic Development Commission has been contacted by others wishing to become partners in the plan to get Michigan as one of a heavily sought-after designation.

“This is the third deadline that needed to be met, so we’re halfway home,” Habermehl said. “I think things are going well. In fact the MEDC said they have been getting calls from companies that want to get involved, so right now I feel things are going in the right direction and everyone is working together.”

Mullaney shared Habermehl’s positive feeling about having the chance a center of excellence will be awarded to the MI-UASC. He said he thinks the issues the group faced when it was first formed has been left in behind and all parties are working together better.

“Once we all started to go in the right direction things began to get done and things began to go more smoothly,” Mullaney said. “The advisers are working together well and I would just say it looks a lot better than it did a month ago.We are all a lot more coordinated in our efforts now.”

One of the things the government has requested in the SIR is each applicant or group have a working website outlining what it has to offer. Alpena County had one created on the advice of Explorer Solutions early in the process, but with the clock ticking and the MI-UASC not having one of its own the county has agreed to donate it to the group for the betterment of the cause. Habermehl said the county did not have a lot of money invested into the website and without it the entire project could be jeopardized.

“We put the website up ourselves when we first started. We purchased several different domain names so nobody else would get one too close to ours and overall it was about $2,500. Most of that cost was just the county paying our employees to do it. We didn’t bring in a contractor or anyone to build it for us,” Habermehl said. “As part of the application the group needs a working website, so to expedite the process we are giving it ours. Right now I don’t think there would be time to have another made. The way I look at it is, if we didn’t give it to the group, there would be a chance we wouldn’t be considered for a center of excellence. If that happened we wouldn’t have any use for it anyway.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at www.thealpenanews.com