Despite Americans’ concerns about the domestic use of drones, California local agencies are reportedly moving forward with an application to declare a broad swath of Southern California a “drone zone” – an area to be used to test pilotless aircraft. The purpose: government stimulus.
In California, the San Diego Military Advisory Council (SDMAC) and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC) have filed an application with the Federal Aviation Administration to create a drone zone. These groups want to stimulate state drone business, even as the state raises its taxes repeatedly, driving out other business. Northrup Grumman, a major drone producer, has relocated branches of its unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program to Southern California. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, which produces Predator drones, is located in Poway. The UAV industry in San Diego County clocks in at approximately $1.3 billion, and that number is growing fast.
And it’s not just California. The FAA is prepared to greenlight six test zones across the country, and over 40 applications have been filed or will be filed shortly, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Applicants include the State Department, the Ohio Department of Transportation, the National Institute of Standards and technologies, and the Grand Forks Sheriff’s Department. The winners of this drone zone sweepstakes will be able to claim a chunk of what may be a $10 billion industry. Senator Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)‘s office says he pushed the FAA program that laid the groundwork for the drone zones. “We had Nevada in mind,” said Reid’s spokeswoman to the Las Vegas Sun. But the zones are bipartisan-approved: Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-NV) is apparently working with Reid and the FAA to try to grab one of the zones.
Ian Gregor, Public Affairs Manager for the FAA Pacific Division, directed Breitbart News to the FAA website’s page on Unmanned Aircraft Systems without further comment. The FAA website describes the goal of the test-site program: “The research done at the test sites will help the FAA develop regulatory standards to foster UAS technology and operational procedures. The effort also will add to the data we need to eventually permit routine UAS operations in the NAS.” The FAA’s press release asking for public input on UAS test-site selection makes no mention of civil liberties. When Gregor was asked via email for comment on whether test sites would rule out urban areas or other areas of population density, he did not respond.
The American Civil Liberties Union is protesting the possibility of such zones, stating, “Unmanned aircraft carrying cameras raise the prospect of a significant new avenue for the surveillance of American life.”
According to reports, 63 drone sites have already been authorized across the country.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the book “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).