County should reconsider backing drone testing zone

By Dave Patterson

On Sept. 24, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors threw its support behind a Southern California drone testing zone. This rash decision puts San Diego County at risk for $2.7 billion in liability for the property alone if a drone goes down and starts a fire in the backcountry.

The supervisors need to rethink this position quickly before the FAA opens our skies to drones for testing purposes and puts us all at risk.

The FAA will decide if Southern California will be the home to drone testing as early as December 2013. The proposed testing area will cover virtually all of Southern California and western Nevada. While the FAA says that the drone manufacturers will be responsible for liability, realistically no business can afford $2.7 billion in property liability insurance, and nor can the county. A catastrophic fire in San Diego County caused by a drone crash would surely bankrupt the county for the foreseeable future. See page 26 of this report: www.corelogic.com/research/wildfire-risk-report/2013-wildfire-hazard-risk-report.pdf.

The latest wildfire risk assessment shows that more than 16,000 structures are at high risk of burning. In the Core Logic report, the potential for burning is a scale of 0~100, where 100 is extremely high. In San Diego County 16,000 structures have a rating of 81~100, with value assigned as $2.7 billion.

As reported by the U-T, SDG&E has already paid $2 billion in damages from the Witch Creek fire. Can we assume that the county can afford the litigation alone?

Supervisors Dianne Jacobs and Ron Roberts, who support the drone testing area because of the potential for jobs, need to ask where the people will work if their homes and businesses are burned out because of a drone crash? Aside from liability, there are many other questions that need to be answered regarding the rights of the people to be free from the noise and intrusion into their privacy. What sensors will be tested on these drones and what happens to the data recorded? Can we expect to see our family backyard picnics on YouTube soon?

Clearly, the decision to support the drone testing area was not well thought out. The county supervisors must temporarily withdraw the county’s support for the drone testing area until the idea can be thoroughly researched and public input provided.

On Dec. 4, a small group of people who call themselves the Back Country Voices will address these issues in Julian. The county supervisors need to be there.

Dave Patterson, a Ramona resident, is a member of Back Country Voices and San Diego Veterans For Peace. Veterans For Peace has been protesting against the misuse of drone technology for approximately a year.

Related posts:

  1. County may relax rules for wind energy testing
  2. SDG&E helicopter will help county fight fires
  3. County seeks governor’s order for full CalFire staffing for fire season
  4. County supervisors support bills to halt Ramona Airport control tower closure
  5. Supervisors move to boost aerial firefighting force

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Posted by Maureen Robertson on Nov 30 2013. Filed under Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

3 Comments for “County should reconsider backing drone testing zone”

  1. John

    Drones are used almost exclusively by obscenely arrogant public officials–tyrants– who think to make it their business to dominate and control society rather than to participate in it as equals–something they would prosecute with a vengeance if their neighbor made it a practice to circle one overhead above their own land. Granted that a drone is arguably capable of serving a benign public purpose, the sad fact remains that such activities lie on the periphery of the machine's demonstrated typical usages. As recent and current history has clearly shown, drones are most typically used by cowardly, power-mad, paranoid tyrants to commit monstrous serial crimes–invasion of privacy and cold-blooded murder. The demonstrated use of drones for these purposes obliterates any potential good that might come of them. Any person willing to tolerate these insidious machines in our airspace–whether in an operational program or in testing for the purpose of making them even more efficient at doing the wicked thing for which they are being designed–is criminally insane.

  2. Mike Loranger

    There will be no “drone” testing in or above San Diego County. This letter/commentary, along with the initial comment/response, are completely inaccurate. I ask the Ramona Sentinel to “close” further comments, and disregard future inputs from this group of individuals. Thanks.

    • guest

      Not sure why you are sending this misinformation along, not once but twice. Can you explain yourself MIke? As for John, wow! Do you wear two tin foil hats at once? Dave Patterson should be out along the road looking for backfiring autos and folks throwing burning materials from cars instead of protesting drones. More brush fires are caused by autos and humans than by utility wires and drones combined. The sky isn't falling, really.

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