Local viewpoint: Exciting times are coming for Alpena

Alpena is open and ready for business.

That was the message last week with a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Michigan Advanced Aerial System Consortium. Whether Alpena ultimately is designated as a Center of Excellence by the federal government is important, but not essential, for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) research and development to begin here.

The consortium is made up of public and private partners from across North America who, in Alpena and locations across Northern Michigan, will be able to offer UAS or drone developers access to flight testing, aerial operations, research and development, training, education, manufacturing and participation in an industrial think tank geared to UAS topics.

While the ultimate goal of the consortium still is to obtain Federal Aviation Administration designation later this year as one of six Center of Excellences for unmanned aircraft development, the consortium is ready for business with or without that designation. Recently Alpena made the first cut for FAA designation from a field of over 50 to now just 25 sites in the running.

Why is Alpena so attractive to drone or UAS developers?

Actually, the reasons are numerous and include the fact that it has one of the most advanced and sophisticated radar systems in commercial use today, its large amount of unrestricted airspace (largest east of the Mississippi River) – large portions of which are over water and the fact that because of the consortium and Canadian partnerships, training and research can occur across borders.

It is an exciting new day for economic development in Northeast Michigan, and it looks as if we’ll be participating in some cutting-edge technology and research related to it.

We’re excited to see it get going. Are you?