Thursday, September 13, 2012

Count of California Drone Bases Tops National List

California has more bases approved for drone use than anywhere else in the country -- by a long shot.

According to the Department of Defense Report to Congress on Future Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training, Operations, and Sustainability (April 2012), California has eighteen (18) locations that have been designated as potential basing locations for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) [i.e. drones] (p. 8 ff.).

The table below gives information on the types of drones that are proposed for basing at each location.

BASE Predator/Reaper type Shadow/Raven type Other
SCLA Victorville MQ1B RQ-11B
El Mirage MQ1B, MQ1C
San Clemente Island MQ1B, MQ9A RQ-11B
Gray Butte MQ1B, MQ9A
NAWS China Lake MQ8
Pt Mugu MQ8
Camp Morena RQ-11B WASP, PUMA
MCB Camp Pendleton RQ-11B
SSTC, Imperial Beach RQ-11B WASP, PUMA
Simi Valley RQ-11B WASP, PUMA
Vandenberg AFB RQ-11B
Camp Roberts RQ-11B, RQ-7B Scan Eagle
Fort Irwin RQ-11B, RQ-7B
MCAGCC 29 Palms RQ-11B, RQ-7B, RQ-21A Scan Eagle
Filmore WASP, PUMA

Not surprisingly, California also tops the nation in the number of members (twelve) of the Congressional drones caucus.

Could it have anything to do with the fact that the drone industry is centered in California -- starting with San Diego-based General Atomics, the maker of the Predator and Reaper drone?


Beale has been heavily funded over the last decade for upgrades related to drones:
2003 - Global Hawk Squadron - operations/maintenance facility - $3.7 million
2003 - Global Hawk - upgrade maintenance dock - $4.6 million
2003 - Global Hawk dining facility - $3.5 million
2004 - Global Hawk - upgrade docks - $9.0 million
2004 - Global Hawk - 144 room dormitory - $14.6 million
2005 - Global Hawk - upgrade dock 2 - $8.3 million
2005 - Global Hawk - addition to age facility - $1.9 million
2005 - Global Hawk - two-bay maintenance hangar - $14 million
In addition, $17.4 million is allocated for 2013 for a BAMS maintenance and training facility at Beale. Even bigger expansion at Beale is scheduled for 2015 and 2016 -- $51 million and $35 million respectively.

Similarly, March was funded $6 million in 2007 for a Predator operations and training complex. and $8 million in 2010 for a TFI-Predator LRE beddown.


Beale AFB (RQ-4): Beale AFB currently operates the CONUS-based AF fleet of RQ-4s. Operation from Beale is conducted under a COA issued by the FAA allowing the aircraft to climb into Class A airspace above Flight Level (FL) 180 and transit to operational locations.

March ARBI/SoCal Logistics Airport (MQ-l & MQ-9): An FAA COA requires chase aircraft to escort RPAs from Southern California Logistics Airport (formerly George AFB) to the R-2S08 Complex associated with Edwards AFB, NAS China Lake, and Fort Irwin.

The report further discloses that three locations operate under the status "Locations Requiring COAs [Certificate of Waiver or Authorization]":
  • El Mirage/Grey Butte (MQ-1C)
  • Simi Valley (RQ-llB Raven - Class G Notification)
  • Camp Roberts (RQ-7B SHADOW)
This refers to: "locations where the Army currently conducts operations outside of Restricted Areas that require a COA from the FAA. In the majority of these locations, the purpose of the COA is to transition from the launch site to adjacent Restricted Areas. Additionally, the Raven can be operated using DoD-FAA agreed-to Class G airspace notification procedures for flights flown over Government-owned or -leased land." (DOD report, p. 20)

No comments:

Post a Comment