Southern California's fast-growing drone industry helping to bring in the big bucks
Seeing an almost limitless market, dozens of defense contractors -- Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. among them -- are now vying to build drone aircraft. They are building surveillance drones the size of insects that can fly through open windows, and others as big as jetliners that can skim the stratosphere.
Soon, experts say, the military and private companies alike will have fleets of robotic planes that can do just about everything piloted aircraft can do, such as carrying cargo and engaging in aerial combat.
The industry is centered in Southern California, a testament to the region's rich aerospace history and the skilled workforce that arose with it. It's also the product of big-money lobbying and pork-barrel politics.
-- W.J. Hennigan
Photo: A California National Guard ground crew pushes a Predator out of its hangar at George Air Force Base in Victorville, Calif. The robotic plane is built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in Poway. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times