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Local citizens express concerns regarding drone testing


October 31, 2013
Citizens in Valley Center and the surrounding areas are raising concerns over a recent decision by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to support a proposal submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for testing of unmanned aerial systems and vehicles (UAS/UAV), otherwise known as drones, over Southern California skies. The unanimous decision came during a Sept. 24 regular board meeting.

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A map showing the proposed drone testing site encompasses almost all of San Diego County, including Valley Center. Courtesy photo
Back Country Voices recently held a meeting to discuss plans and ideas about educating themselves as well as the public about how they believe the environment, safety and privacy of area residents could be impacted by drone testing should the FAA choose to select

Southern California later this year as one of the six locations for drone testing. Concerns at the meeting also included drone technology and how that technology could advance quicker than regulations could be written.

The site proposed will not affect San Diego County airports and UAV/UAS testing would be banned in Class B airspace which encompasses the county's larger airports. The proposed site stretches from Bridgeport to the U.S. Mexico border, and from the state line to 100 miles west and out into the ocean. It would exclude Los Angeles but encompass almost all of all of San Diego County, including Valley

Center and the surrounding areas.

According to a press release issued by the group, twenty-five groups in twenty four states are competing to become one of the six chosen sites for testing on how to introduce remotely piloted aircraft into U.S. airspace. The industry could have an "estimated $82 billion impact on the U.S. economy by 2025," the release states. The FAA began the process to designate six regions throughout the United States as test sites for UAV/UAS development after the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 mandated the FAA integrate UAS into national airspace. The FAA issued Survey Information Requests, similar to a request for proposal. A proposal was then submitted by a coalition of Southern California entities including the San Diego Military Advisory Council, San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation and San Diego North Chamber of Commerce. Indian Wells Valley Airport district, located in Inyokern, Calif., served as the proposal lead, according to the Board of Supervisors' agenda for the Sept. 24 meeting.

District 5 Supervisor Bill Horn could not be reached prior to press time, but Horn's media director, Anita Lightfoot forwarded comments previously made by Horn, clearly in support of the issue.

"I see significant economic benefits to having a drone testing site in our region," the statement said. "But I also want to protect the property rights, privacy and safety of residents within the test area

boundaries. That said, the amount of influence that the county would have would be minimal. Once a UAV is airborne, it is within the FAA's jurisdiction, just as it is with airplanes using our county airports. The FAA and Department of Defense will be the main authorities with respect to testing."

Calls to the FAA by the Valley Roadrunner have gone unanswered.

Back Country voices has scheduled two informational meetings for those interested in learning more and voicing their opinions about drone testing. A panel discussion will be held on Monday, Nov. 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Julian Library located at 1850 Highway 78 in Julian. A town hall meeting will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 4 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Julian Town Hall and Community Center located at 2129 Main Street in Julian. Speakers include Dave Patterson of San Diego Veterans for Peace, Matthew Kellegrew, attorney with the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and Bill Everett, Julian

resident, pilot, firefighter and wildlife biologist. All San Diego County residents are encouraged to attend. Visit backcountryvoices.wordpress.com/category/back-country-voices-citizens-action-group for more information on Back Country Voices.

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