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The Big Picture San Diego Blog


California Unmanned Air Systems Portal

March 27, 2013

San Diego Regional EDC and a number of partners from industry organizations and private companies are working to attain status as a center of excellence (COE) for unmanned systems. San Diego is already well known for developing and manufacturing unmanned autonomous systems (UAS). The industry supports more than 7,000 jobs and accounts for more than 12 percent of all Department of Defense contracting activities in San Diego County, according to an industry report prepared by the San Diego North Chamber of Commerce. The report also concluded that the industry has the potential to double its economic impact over the next seven years. Recently, Northrop Grumman announced that the company would designate its Rancho Bernardo facility as their center of excellence for UAS development. The move is expected to bring an additional 300 jobs to the San Diego region.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued the request for information. They intend to designate six Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) test sites across the Continental United States in order to integrate UAS into national airspace.

The geographic area of the proposed site encompasses a vast area of land extending from Edwards Air Force Base and the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake south to the Mexican border and east to the Arizona border. The regional coalition includes San Diego Military Advisory Council, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems, Imperial Valley EDC, County of Imperial, Holtville Airport in Imperial County, and defense contractors including General Atomics, Cubic, Epsilon Systems and Northrop Grumman. This group joined forces with the California Unmanned Air Systems Portal, based in Indian Wells in Riverside County, which enabled the proposal to include such a large area. The proposed test range region is geographically diverse, including airspace over mountain ranges, high and low desert, and the ocean.

About 40 applications have been submitted seeking to become one of the six test sites.