CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) - A new FAA designation has made Chula Vista one of 10 drone testing sites in the country. It's also expected to boost the city's economy and its standing as a technology hub.
"This is just a small part of a big plan we have in Chula Vista to become a big part of the technology industry," says Chula Vista City Councilmember Mike Diaz.
The FAA program, called the "Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program" (IPP), is designed to help the FAA create new rules for low-altitude drone use by companies and cities.
A 375-acre patch of land off of Discovery Falls Drive will be the primary testing site for San Diego. Chula Vista-based Action Drone Inc. will coordinate all the testing.
"It basically opened up the door for us," says Action Drone Inc owner Darryl Anunciado. "That same week we got the FAA designation, big companies started talking to us and started visiting us."
Anunciado says companies like GM, Siemens, the US Navy, SDSU and CalTrans have all contacted him to start drone testing.
"The FAA’s looking for regulations," he says. "But they won’t understand how to regulate drones until companies tell them what is safe, what is not safe."
According to the FAA website, the program is meant to, "... foster a meaningful dialogue on the balance between local and national interests related to UAS integration, and provide actionable information to the USDOT on expanded and universal integration of UAS into the National Airspace System."
For Chula Vista, it could mean a windfall of new businesses coming to town.
Anunciado says any company that wants to test drones will likely need to find office-space in Chula Vista and move pilots and employees to the area.
It's exactly what city leaders had in mind as they've tried to attract tech companies over the past few years.
"We are ready," says Diaz. "All we gotta do with those companies is add water, and they can come in right now, start doing business and really make the drone industry take off."
Chula Vista recently tried to lure Amazon to build it's HQ2 in the area. They didn't get the bid, but it showed they're serious about becoming a tech hub. The city is already working with the DOT on testing driverless cars. City leaders believe they're the only city in the country to be a test site for both drones and autonomous vehicles.
Meanwhile, the Millenia project is nearing completion, adding housing, shopping and more to lure companies.
"I think we’ve positioned ourselves to not only welcome the (drone) industry but all other industries in technology."