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The Big Picture San Diego Blog


4 things you probably didn’t know about San Diego’s aerospace industry

March 25, 2015

With California Aerospace week underway in Sacramento, we wanted to take a look at how San Diego contributes to this thriving cluster. The industry counts itself among the  “aerospace, navigation and maritime technologies cluster,” which directly employs 35,000 in the region at an average annual wage of nearly $84,000. In an effort to bolster job creation in the industry, LAEDC and San Diego Regional EDC were in Sacramento earlier this week to meet the new chairs of the Assembly and Senate select committees on aerospace.

Aerospace has a long history in San Diego, dating back to the early 1900s when Ryan Airlines built the Spirit of St. Louis and Reuben Fleet brought Consolidated Aircraft Corporation to Lindbergh Field. Since then, San Diego’s aerospace cluster has been an integral part of the region’s innovation and defense economies.

Here are a few things you may not have known about the region’s thriving aerospace industry:

  1. They're not all "manned."
    Illustrating some of the dynamic uses for unmanned system.
    Illustrating some of the dynamic uses of unmanned systems. Clockwise from top left: Drone used for newspaper delivery (The Atlantic), prepping a wildfire- fighting drone for launch (The New York Times), simulation of a lifeguard/lifesaving drone (AUVSI), agricultural drone used for pest control.( Diydrones.com)
    Pilot-less aircraft, or unmanned air systems/drones, are revolutionizing the world. From the drone hobbyist to military contractors, San Diego’s diverse terrain, military expertise, and talented workforce have put us at the epicenter of drone manufacturing.

    Like many great innovations (e.g.  the internet), drone technology originated in the military, but has broad applications. From fighting wildfires to crop dusting and delivering crucial medications to people in disaster-inflicted areas, drones are another example of how San Diego works to solve some of the world’s hardest problems.

    A 2013 study by AUVSI found UAS integration in California would create 18,161 jobs throughout the state within a decade of airspace incorporation.

  2. The largest aerospace manufacturer in the state has a presence here.
    Nat Geo host Andrew Evans explores Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk during filming of the documentary
    Nat Geo documentary host Andrew Evans explores Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk during filming of the documentary.
    Defense Innovator Northrop Grumman – the Golden State’s largest defense company -  has 3,087 employees in San Diego, according to the SDBJ. Recognizing the region’s strengths in UAS technology, the company consolidated its Unmanned Center of Excellence to its Rancho Bernardo location in 2013.

    Northrop Grumman is featured in the upcoming Nat Geo “Smart Cities” documentary about San Diego (stay tuned for air dates).
     
  3. Baja California contributes to the region’s aerospace dominance.
    Calibaja Manufacturing
    A manufacturing facility in Baja California.
    As Mayor Faulconer likes to say regarding the San Diego – Tijuana relationship, “We’re two cities, but we’re one Mega-region.” This is particularly true when you look at the aerospace sector. Despite a recent decline, Baja California’s stronghold in aerospace manufacturing still reigns supreme, boasting more jobs in that sector than any other Mexican state.
     
  4. We’re getting ready to release the largest economic impact study about the aerospace industry the region has ever seen.
    Members from San Diego Regional EDC and LAEDC gather with legislaters in Sacremento to show support for the state's aerospace industry
    San Diego Regional EDC and LAEDC gather with legislators in Sacramento to show support for the state's aerospace industry.
    San Diego Regional EDC is working collaboratively with LAEDC to launch an aerospace economic impact study that will quantify the nine counties that make up Southern California. The study will help articulate how Southern California’s aerospace industry competes on a global level.