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The Big Picture San Diego Blog


Have we found the next internet?

October 21, 2013

Illustrating some of the dynamic uses for unmanned system.

Illustrating some of the dynamic uses for unmanned system. 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 weed control (3dRobotics/ Diydrones.com) 

If you stopped 100 people on the street and asked them to name a technology in the past 20 years that has changed the world, it’s safe to assume that the internet would be a top choice. Yet if you ask people about the origins of the internet, many would have to pause for a second to think. In the 1950s, the internet was developed as a tool for military communication. It wasn’t until the mid-90s that the internet was adopted and commercialized for broader use. 
 
San Diego is used to seeing military innovations adopted for commercial use. In fact, many of the region’s largest and most well-known companies – including Qualcomm – were born out of military innovation. 
 
Now, a new technology is being developed for commercial use and San Diego, with its strong military history, trained talent, and diverse terrain, has a decent chance of playing a big role in something that has already began to revolutionize the world. 
 
Unmanned Systems – or drones as they’re often called – have uses ranging from agricultural production to disaster monitoring and wildfire fighting.  
 
A jobs generator 
 
Recognizing the importance of unmanned systems, the FAA has issued a call to establish six test sites across the country, with a goal of working to integrate this technology safely into our airspace.  A recent study from the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International found that California was poised to gain 18,161 jobs if they created a test site- more than any other U.S. state. This does not even take into account the impact of non-aerial unmanned systems for marine and farming use, which will help create even more jobs. The industry would pump approximately $90 billion into the economy in the next decade, generating an estimated $70 million in tax revenue. 
 
In partnership with San Diego Military Advisory Council, EDC and other San Diego partners joined the CAL UAS portal. The proposed testing site would start at the U.S./Mexico border and run from Bridgeport to the North and to the Arizona/Nevada border to the East. The regulations do not allow testing within a 30-mile radius of installations including Lindbergh Field and McClellan-Palomar Airport, meaning most of San Diego’s metro airspace will not be included in testing ranges.
 
San Diego is at a significant advantage. Not only do we have one of the most diverse testing sites in the U.S., but we also have a strong private sector that would help support a testing site. Companies such as 3Drobotics, Northrop Grumman, General Atomics and 5d robotics provide a well-qualified talent pool to help the sector thrive. 
 
Maybe 10 years from now, if we ask people about a technology that has profoundly impacted society, unmanned systems will float to the top of the list. Our hope is that when it does, San Diego is thought of as a leader in this field.
 

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