Observation of electromagnetic waves in the low‐altitude auroral zone at frequencies between the proton and helium gyrofrequencies suggests that Alfven‐ion cyclotron waves modified by the presence of helium ions are being excited. Estimates of the growth rates for this mode indicate that the auroral electron beam can provide the free energy for the instability. The effect of the heavy ions is to decrease the group velocity of the waves, leading to larger convective growth. Theoretical wave spectra are computed in the local approximation, which assumes that the gradient scale lengths in density and magnetic field are constant over the ray paths. Narrow banded spectral peaks similar to observations may be produced when the thickness of the electron beam is small (200 m at 3000 km altitude). Narrow beams also limit growth of whistler mode waves, which compete for the free energy of the electron beam.