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UAVs Lift Aeropsace Contracts Above Ship Building in San Diego

Aired 11/1/12 on KPBS News.

The use of unmanned arial vehicles, or UAVs sometimes known as drones, is growing so fast it has returned aerospace to the top of the list of defense contractors in San Diego.

A report out today says the federal government spent more than a billion dollars in San Diego last year on companies developing and manufacturing UAVs.

The author, Kelly Cunningham of National University System’s Institute for Policy Research, said this sector has overtaken ship manufacturing and SPAWAR research in federal funding for defense contractors in San Diego.

“Historically, aerospace was San Diego’s major industry and then it dwindled, “ Cunningham said. “The rest of the economy and other industries grew around it, but in the last ten years aerospace has had this rebound of defense spending here. Now it’s now become the largest sector of the defense contracting industry.”

San Diego’s Veterans for Peace have been demonstrating outside General Atomics to protest the use of drones for domestic surveillance. But Cunningham said the proliferation of UAVS is what makes the industry so well positioned for growth.

“We’re probably going to see some defense cut backs, but this is a growing sector and likely to continue growing,” he said. “It’s actually moving outside of defense into other commercial business, and the government can use it for other things.”

Cunningham said federal spending on UAVs generated 2,000 high paid jobs in San Diego. Indirectly, he said, more than 7,000 jobs in San Diego depend on that federal money.

Almost 90 percent of the jobs directly related to the development of UAVs are in North County. Small businesses only get two or three percent of the federal investment. Northrup Grumman has the biggest share of the business, more than 60 percent, with General Atomics landing almost 40 percent of the prime UAV contracts.

The report was commissioned by the San Diego North Chamber of Commerce

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