Unmanned aerial vehicle business in San Diego skyrocketing

New study confirms steady growth of industry

CORONADO - The companies involved in the production of unmanned aerial vehicles in San Diego are worth more than $2 billion in economic impact, according to a new study released Wednesday.

The study, commissioned by the San Diego North Chamber of Commerce, also revealed that UAV production employs more than 7,000 people with an annual payroll of more than $248 million.

The results were released at the annual Unmanned Systems Interoperability Conference in Coronado.

Two of the largest UAV producers are Rancho Bernardo-based Northrop Grumman and Poway-based General Atomics but much of the production is also done by small businesses.  

"Small guys like us are willing to take risks that larger companies wouldn't take," said Dave Aberizk, who is with Integrated Consultants Incorporated.

ICI builds wiring harnesses among other things for Northrop Grumman unmanned systems such as Fire Scout.

"For us to try and do that would be crazy," said retired Adm. Jim Zortman, who is now with Northrop Grumman. "They do it much better than we can and we get a better price by buying it from them."

Poway-based Micro USA employs about 12 people full and part time and is trying to market a helicopter-mounted camera that can see through ocean water what human eyes cannot.  

"You can never compete with the large corporations but we can carry our own weight and I think there is room in the industry for both of us," said Arjun Jain, who heads Micro USA.

The study revealed that UAV business doubled in the last five years and that growth potential – despite cuts elsewhere in the Department of Defense – looks promising.

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