Back Country Drones
On September 24, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors gave their support to a proposal that was submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for testing of Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Vehicle (drones) over Southern California. So far, twenty-five groups in twenty-four states are competing to become one of the six chosen sites for testing on how to merge remotely piloted aircraft into U.S. airspace. This proliferating unmanned aircraft industry will have an estimated $82 billion impact on the U.S. economy by 2025.
Supervisor Dianne Jacob says being chosen will bolster the local economy and result in much needed jobs. Supervisor Ron Roberts said fostering growth in local companies developing the aircraft and systems is necessary to retain jobs and benefits. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) also sees the opportunity, with two of the world’s biggest drone developers, Northrop Grumman and General Atomics, within reach of his district.
The San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation and the San Diego Military Advisory Council, along with several other agencies proposed a test area from the U.S-Mexico border to Bridgeport, excluding L.A., from the state line 100 miles west into the ocean. Supervisor Roberts claimed the majority of testing would be over unpopulated areas. The Borrego Springs (and Julian) area might be swarming with drones if this proposal goes through.
Since 2007, the Federal Aviation Administration has issued over 1,400 permits for drones, mostly to civilian federal agencies and police departments but estimates the number of small commercial drones at 7,500 within five years. The FAA issues permits for border patrol, law-enforcement, firefighting, etc. on a case by case basis. The growing demand for unmanned aircraft owned by small businesses will be accommodated when the agency “relaxes its airspace rules.” Having the test sites, they hope, will bring this all to fruition.
Privacy advocates say drones can carry a camera up to a window without notice, and believe courting the drone industry could compromise our civil liberties.David Loy, the Legal Director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, says without proper regulation, drones can threaten not only our privacy and civil liberties but also our lives. Dave Patterson | San Diego Veterans for Peace questions what will become of the surveillance information collected by the proposed 10,000 drones around Southern California, “Our fourth and fifth amendment rights are going to go up in a cloud of drones, if we’re not careful.”
Safety is another concern. Last year a Navy drone crashed near Chesapeake Bay, but luckily, without injuries. There’s one reason for the majority of testing to be slated in the less populated areas of San Diego County.
Last year Congress required the Obama administration to develop rules to integrate drones into U.S. airspace. The FAA was mandated to set up the six test sites. The agency will reveal the test sites in December. Keep your eyes on the sky, because you never know when the sky might have its eyes on you.
Concerned residents of San Diego County have joined together to form a citizens action group, ‘Back Country Voices,’ which will provide the necessary public outreach and education to better address the ramifications of a ‘National Drone Testing Site’ in our back country.
It was recently noted (September 24) in the UT San Diego, KPBS, and several news channels, that the 5 San Diego County Supervisors voted unanimously to approve San Diego back country as one of the proposed 6 national Drone Test Sites to be determined by the FAA in December, 2013.
There have been no public forums, informational hearings, nor has there been any opportunities for concerned citizens to ask about the drone test sites. In fact, many area residents do not even know that this proposal is being considered.
Back Country Voices has filled this gap by facilitating public forums, a citizen’s action network, information gathering and sharing, accountability, and advocacy.
Please join us and share your voice!
‘Back Country Voices’ facebook grp. – https://www.facebook.com/groups/170624526472012/