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New Drone Command Center Good For Economy, But Raises Concerns

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A new drone command center is expected to be in place at the Horsham Air Station by October. A new drone command center is expected to be in place at the Horsham Air Station by October.
HORSHAM, Pa. -

The military drone command control center to be built at the Horsham Air Station could be a real shot in the arm to the former Willow Grove Naval Air facility, but experts say the new high tech ground control facility may come with some security concerns.

"If you can draw the line back from force projection aboard to that facility," terrorism expert Ed Turzanski of the Foreign Policy Institute told FOX 29. "I could see where some people would be concerned."

While Turzanski, a counter terrorism expert, says controlling military drones in action half a world away makes sense here, neighbors do have some worries about security.

"Could be a target if they're doing that," said Angel Marrone, whose son owns a business nearby. "Like terrorists, I would worry about them coming over something like that."

"I would imagine the security protocols are going to be quite tight," Turzanski said. "Some of the kinds of more elaborate or dangerous uses of drones may not be necessarily tied to that facility. That tends to be in hardened military facilities, far away from civilian population centers."

The Air Force and the Pennsylvania National Guard's 111th Fighter Wing both say the new mission here will focus on remotely controlled aircraft, such as the MQ-9 Reaper drone. A demonstration video shows pilots housed in a virtual cockpit operating drones thousands of miles away. A two person team will help control drones around the world. No drones will fly out of this base.

"That will be great for the economy in this area," said Mark Howard who works near the base.

The drone program will create 250 new jobs, 75 of them full-time positions. It will boost the local economy, which has suffered since Willow Grove's closure in 2011.

Turzanski says progress is worth the price.

"I would say that if someone is looking to buy and they get a good price on a house, they should still buy. I think they'll be safe," he explained. "This is an investment in the region and it's only going to grow. So it's a good thing.

The drone command center is expected to be in place in October.

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