Hopefully city leaders turn potential into action

Published 6:41 pm Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The agreement between the city of Vicksburg and the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center to allow ERDC’s labs to fly drones at the Vicksburg Municipal Airport could be a boost for the city.

For ERDC, the agreement allows the center’s researchers and scientists to learn to fly drones in an open environment and develop and test new equipment for new research applications.

For the city, it means a potential step toward bringing high tech jobs to the area. Both city officials and the leadership at ERDC want to see more cooperation between the community and ERDC, and having more local businesses compete for federal contracts.

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Opening the airport for pilot training and testing new equipment for ERDC presents an opportunity for the city to attract entrepreneurs and companies involved with drone development to the area to work with one of the premier research and development agencies in the world.

The airport, with its open space, is a prime location for launching drones, not just by ERDC, but by other government agencies and companies. And Warren County’s topography and woodlands provide a good area to test and evaluate the capabilities of equipment.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. believes the ERDC agreement is just the beginning of the airport’s new future in the high tech world.

“There’s tons of money in the budget for the Department of Defense budget and the Homeland Security budget for this,” he said. “This is going to be a game changer.

“I think you’re going to see an airport that is going to be very competitive in this region.”

South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour pointed to the success of Mississippi State University, which he said has had a longtime drone program, calling it “the flagship university for drones (in Mississippi).”

Drones, he said, “are going to do a tremendous amount (of economic impact) for this airport, for this city. And one day, this airport is going to be a great asset.”

The ERDC agreement has the potential to turn our small airport and the area around it into a high tech center for unmanned aircraft. Let’s hope our city leaders have the sense to realize that potential and turn their words into action. The door has cracked open; it’s time to push it all the way back.