San Diego Business Journal

Conference Sees Growing Role for UAVs in Region’s Economic Picture

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The San Diego North Chamber of Commerce released the results of a study on the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle industry’s impact on the San Diego region at the 6th Annual Unmanned Systems Interoperability Conference Oct. 31.

According to the report, the UAV industry in San Diego nearly doubled from 2008 to 2011, with nearly $1.3 billion spent on research, development and production in 2011.

UAVs account for the largest portion of San Diego’s defense manufacturing industry, including 7,135 direct and indirect jobs throughout the region, while the total economic output of the UAV industry in the region is $2.28 billion, according to the report.

According to the report, the bulk of UAV business is handled by Northrop Grumman, which accounted for nearly 62 percent of the region’s total prive UAV contracts from 2008-2011, and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, which accounted for 37.6 percent of the region’s total prive UAV contracts from 2008-2011.

Despite possible cuts in the defense spending, researchers forecast that the UAV industry will double by the end of 2020, with several firms predicting that global demand for UAVs will reach $12 billion by 2019.

With other regions taking significant steps to attract UAV business, the authors of the report also suggested activities the region should explore to protect the UAV industry in San Diego including, bringing industry and academic professionals together to identify gaps, and ensuring science, engineering and math students in the area understand opportunities in the local UAV industry.

The chamber commissioned the National University System Institute for Policy Research to conduct the assessment due to the fact that 86 percent of the UAV industry’s economic impact originates in the North County area, including Rancho Bernardo and Poway.