Drone Operation Center Headed to West MI

Posted at 12:18 AM, Mar 15, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-15 15:56:03-04

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — A drone operation center is headed to the Battle Creek Air National Guard Base.

Will drones be flying over West Michigan? The answer is no.

They will only be controlled from the base. Colonel Ron Wilson said the drones will fly overseas in approved military zones.

He explained how a drone is controlled from thousands of miles away.

“It has sensors on it. It also carries weapons, and you can fly them remotely,” Wilson said.

“It’s partially via satellite and partially via optic cable. Basically, it goes through cable, across the ocean and down to the drone… the controller and it does that in less than two seconds,” Wilson explained.

The technology is already being operated by other bases around the country. Wilson said the drone carries out similar missions to that of a manned aircraft.

However, he said it takes getting used to. For one, the pilot isn’t physically there to look around freely.

He said one plus is that it’s safer for pilots.

“Obviously, we don’t go to a combat zone. We fly them from here from Battle Creek,” Wilson said.

The base was hoping to get two other traditional manned aircraft, a C-21 and a C-130. However, both proposals fell through.

Wilson said those aircraft would have provided jobs for mechanics and other existing staff.

That combined with the impact of the sequester means furloughs and layoffs.

“We’re gonna do the best we can to try and mitigate job losses. We’re going to try and place people,” Wilson said. He said the new mission will mean training for many employees.

To those civilians who are concerned about drones roaming the united states, Wilson said there`s no need to worry.

The Air Force did the same exact type of missions with manned aircraft as they do with drones.

“You don’t spy on people’s backyards. What you do is, you take off. You go to the ranges that we have, the military restricted areas and we work on targets, on tanks, on trucks, on convoys,” he explained.

The Battle Creek Air National Guard base operated the A-10 Warthog for 18 years up until 2009. Recently, they were flying C-21s. However, that stops in September.

There’s no set ‘start date’ for when the drone mission will get underway.