Turnout was sparse on Thursday afternoon, January 2, at a rally organized by San Diego Veterans for Peace to celebrate a decision by the Federal Aviation Administration not to use the skies over San Diego as a testing ground for introducing private unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly referred to as drones, to American skies.
A large swath of Southern California land was expected to be a front-runner among over 30 sites submitting proposals to the FAA due to the varied terrain, strong support from local politicos, and close proximity to major drone manufacturers.
Northrop Grumman and General Atomics, whose facilities Veterans for Peace have been protesting for over a year, are among several local drone-tech companies. But when the site selection announcement went out on December 30, California was not on the list of approved locations, which included areas in Alaska, New York, Nevada, North Dakota, Texas, and Virginia.
"There are just too many risks involved" in allowing unfettered drone use, warns Air Force veteran Dave Patterson, who has been a driving force behind the protests. "You've got fire risk, risk of improper surveillance, risk of them crashing into airplanes...we're obviously not happy about the jobs that won't be coming to the area [as a result of the site selection], but there need to be stronger regulations in place before we can let these things fly."
Despite dozens of citizens showing up at previous protests and meetings on the issue, only a small handful were gathered near the General Atomics facility on Scripps Poway Parkway around 4 p.m. on January 2. The group said they wanted to continue to raise awareness of the drone issue both domestically and abroad, and that a push still needs to be made for stronger privacy protections and safety measures before drones are flying over American skies en masse.