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Battle Creek Unlimited receives USD7 million appropriation for drone park in new state budget

Battle Creek Unlimited (BCU) a private, non-profit corporation which serves as the economic development arm for the City of Battle Creek and manages the Fort Custer Industrial Park announced today that it has secured a USD7 million appropriation in the 2024 state budget which was signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer on July 31. BCU says the funds will support the development of an advanced air mobility park at the Battle Creek Executive Airport (BTL).

BCU says the park, which is to be called MICH-AIR, has been in the works since 2019 when BCU received a grant from the Michigan Defense Center to determine if Battle Creek would be an attractive location for drone companies looking to establish operations. “The Battle Creek Executive Airport (BTL) is one of the busiest airports in the state. Its main runway measures 10,004 feet and is complemented by a parallel runway and a crosswind runway. The airport has approximately 200 acres of land available for development, ideal for drone operations” according to the press release.

BCU says it will market the facility as a site for drone manufacture, operations, maintenance & repair, and drone training, as well as for urban air mobility. The USD7 million the company says will be used to upgrade the airspace surveillance system at BTL, in preparation for increased traffic from autonomous and remotely piloted aircraft. BCU has already invested approximately USD3 million in the MICH-AIR project, which according to the company includes site preparation, land acquisition for a new entrance, engineering plans, and environmental analysis.

While MICH-AIR is informally referred to as a drone park, BCU President & CEO Joe Sobieralski noted that it is important to make the distinction between the small drones flown for personal recreation use and the large autonomous and remotely piloted aircraft that are currently being developed. “At MICH-AIR, we will be targeting large aviation and defence manufacturers, which are developing next generation aircraft. These could be used for transportation, cargo delivery, border surveillance, spraying crops, or firefighting. There are all kinds of applications, for both civilian and military use. Our goal is for MICH-AIR to be a leader in the emerging sector” he said.

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(Image: Battle Creek Unlimited)

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