Drones Revive So Cal Aerospace Industry

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SIERRA VISTA, AZ - The new MQ-9 Predator B, unveiled by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which will use it to patrol the southern border of the United Sates. (Credit Gary Williams/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Times pays a visit to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in Poway, and it's a riveting read. In a sprawling north San Diego County complex, 3,300 workers are manufacturing Predator and Reaper drones, robotic planes that capture video and launch missiles, all at the remote command of a soldier elsewhere.

Southern California's drone industry, W.J. Hennigan tells us in this impressive enterprise feature, employs an estimated 10,000 people...fueled largely by billions of dollars from the Pentagon, CIA and Congress.

"It is the most hotly sought-after weapon system in a generation," said Loren Thompson, a military policy analyst for the Lexington Institute, a think tank in Arlington, Va.

Of course, whenever there's a heady rush over a new military gizmo, you find stories of questionable political behavior and pork, detailed in the article.

There are non-military uses for the planes. They can be used to spot wildfires, or monitor global warming, or hunt for people trying to cross the US border with Mexico.

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About Rachael Myrow

From KQED’s Bureau in San Jose, Rachael Myrow covers politics, economics, technology, food and culture in a vast region extending from Burlingame to Edenvale to Fremont. This follows more than seven years waking at 3 am to host the daily version of KQED's California Report, broadcast on NPR affiliates throughout the state during NPR's Morning Edition. She still guest hosts for The California Report and Forum, blogs for Bay Area Bites, and files for NPR and PRI’s The World. Before KQED, she worked for Marketplace and KPCC in Los Angeles. Follow @rachaelmyrow

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