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Michigan State allocates USD17 million to accelerate drone/AAM infrastructure projects

According to Detroit News: “The allocation in the state budget marks the first time the Michigan Department of Transportation will receive direct state dollars for infrastructure supporting unmanned aerial systems and other advanced aeronautic priorities. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. has awarded roughly USD1 million in grants over the last several years to about 15 companies specializing in commercial drone usage, but none for a state-driven effort to build out the drone corridors.

“The grants come ahead of the expected release of a study that looks at commercial drone use in three key locations: the Detroit area, to study urban deployment; the Traverse City area, to study urban, rural and overwater flights; and the Detroit-Windsor crossing, to look at cross-border implementation.

“The study done in cooperation with the Ontario province and several other partners is expected to make recommendations regarding potential uses for commercial drone technology, its economic impact and the infrastructure needed to facilitate the emerging industry.

Providing the flight pathways and radar systems necessary for the commercial drone industry falls within the state’s overall infrastructure responsibilities, said Bryan Budds, an administrator for the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Office of Aeronautics.

“We have to provide those highways in the sky,” Budds said. “Of the USD17 million allocated in the budget, USD10 million goes directly to MDOT for advanced aeronautics infrastructure — including more futuristic elements such as vertiports and electric passenger planes — and USD7 million to a Battle Creek economic development agency trying to set up its own commercial drone program at the local airport.

“MDOT is still unsure of how it will use its funding as it works with the Legislature to clarify intent and as it awaits a final copy of the study,” according to Detroit News.

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