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County OKs agreements for drone project

August 28, 2012
Steve Schulwitz - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

ALPENA - The Alpena County Board of Commissioners voted to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the University of Texas at Dallas and a non-disclosure agreement with General Dynamics Information Technology, which is a business unit of General Dynamics that is a leader in the field of aerospace and defense systems. General Dynamics is also the recipient of many large-scale projects from the United States military.

Although the agreements do not bind the sides legally moving forward, it means there is mutual interest between them in the Unmanned Vehicle System Center, which if all goes well could become a hub for unmanned aircraft training and development in Alpena. Commissioner Tom Mullaney said the agreements are set in place to protect the intellectual property of all involved. He said there could be other agreements made down the road with other universities, as well as other businesses. Mullaney said plans are still moving forward with the proposed plan at the Alpena County Regional Airport and it still appears there is a good chance the project will become a reality.

"We have had conversations with several different organizations and that was really what the purpose of going out to the conference last month," Mullaney said. "We wanted to talk to these different corporations. One stated right off the bat that as soon as we get the approval he said he would move here from California, here to be a part of it. We are very hopeful and we had some really great meetings with the governor's office and they are very supportive, as are many others in the state and federal government, So it is looking good right now."

Mullaney said he is leaving today to meet with a company from Canada and take a tour of its facility. Mullaney said the Canadian firm is interested in becoming involved in the unmanned aircraft project. He said Alpena's proximity to Canada could be key in being awarded the project.

"I'm going to talk with them and look at their research center," Mullaney said. "We share a mutual border, which allows for cross training between the Canadian firms and the American firms. This is a potential that very few other spots which are bidding for this have and we are going to try to capitalize on it."

In other business:

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 358-5689.



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