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

Rachael Myrow hosts the California Report for KQED. Over 17 years in public radio, she's worked for Marketplace and KPCC, filed for NPR and The World, and developed a sizable tea collection that's become the envy of the KQED newsroom. She specializes in politics, economics and history in California - but for emotional balance, she also covers food and its relationship to health and happiness.

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