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The Big Picture San Diego Blog


Drones

March 29, 2018

By Jesse Gipe, senior economic development manager

Across San Diego in the coming months, you may see a drone mapping a fire in real time, delivering a snack from your favorite fast food chain to your doorstep, dropping off a package in your neighbor’s front yard, transforming regional fireworks shows into digital storytelling platforms, or delivering medical samples to a lab reducing patient wait time in local ERs. This is all because of unique regional collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

In 2010, EDC, in partnership with SDMAC and other institutions, assessed our regional defense industry to better understand what facets of our defense ecosystem were most resilient to decline even as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan drew down. Drones were identified as one of the major technology areas in which the region had unique expertise and would continue to be acquired by the Department of Defense. Subsequently, EDC has worked on a variety of initiatives to support the development of this evolving industry.

By 2022, the FAA estimates that 451,800 commercial drones – up from just over 100,000 in 2017 – will be flying across our skies performing a wide variety of unique tasks that will change our day to day lives. This growth is being driven by companies already solving problems like critical infrastructure inspection, incident response, and real-time fire management. In addition to very serious use cases, drones are now transforming Olympic Opening Ceremonies, delivering medical supplies to those in need, and acting as valuable sensor nodes for smart city infrastructure. With so many exciting use cases, you may wonder why we don’t see more drones flown by companies as opposed to your 14-year-old neighbor across the street.

The reality is that the U.S. airspace is a complex web of overlapping operations that remains one of the statistically safest things you can do. The FAA, who has the responsibility of adjusting rules to allow drones in the national airspace, is laser-focused on safety. With this, the FAA is also very conscious of the opportunity that drones present for all types of industry and use cases.

To expedite industry demand, the FAA and Department of Transportation launched a new program in November 2017 called the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integrated Pilot Program (IPP). This project asked local and state governments to submit a detailed application in partnership with industry outlining how they could partner to demonstrate a variety of technologies critical for flying safely in and around people in more urban and suburban environments.

The City of San Diego offices of homeland security and economic development, supported by EDC, put together a competitive application in response to IPP. The application was supported by academic, government, and nonprofit partners including the Port of San Diego, City of Chula Vista, UC San Diego Health, Governors Military Council, Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, Palomar Community College, Coleman University, and AUVSI. Just as importantly, the application included corporate support from Qualcomm, AT&T, UBER, Intel, GE, Matternet, AirMap, CAPE, and others.  These companies each have tremendous technical experience in the underlying fields essential to the development of the drone industry and have proposed a series of truly Life. Changing. use cases.

With the application submitted, San Diego alongside the other 149 applicants from across the country are waiting to hear from the FAA. Stay tuned to find who will be among the final 10 selected to move forward with IPP in May 2018.

 

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.
     

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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