San Diego secretly planned to test out a military-grade drone to catch speeding drivers

Voice of San Diego obtained records indicating that the city’s Office of Homeland Security had been supportive of using the SkyGuardian drone made, by a local defense contractor, for vehicle enforcement on the freeway, but had asked the company to withhold that information from the public. The drone weighs more than 12,500lbs and has a wingspan of 79ft.

In mid-2019 General Atomics, the maker of the drone, announced that the city backed the objectives of the SkyGuardian, but omitted inclusion of the traffic enforcement use of the drone, per the request of city officials.

As late as December 2019 the company continued to offer the city assistance with “border traffic surveillance, stoplight functionality, and vehicle speed enforcement,” and furthermore provided a route that the SkyGuardian could take through Southern California. 

By the time General Atomics initiated the SkyGuardian test flight in April 2020, the project had been transferred from San Diego’s Office of Homeland Security to the city’s Economic Development Department.

The San Diego Economic Development Corporation had become responsible for integrating commercially available drones into everyday life, but in December 2019 declined to provide any direct support to General Atomics for the SkyGuardian test flight. 

While using drones to help police in San Diego may have only been an idea, it is important to consider that such an implementation would likely cost the city a fortune and increase the number of tickets given out. San Diegans, already financially stressed by this year’s events, cannot afford to be given more traffic citations from eyes in the sky, nor can they afford for their tax revenue to be put towards a plan to extract more money from taxpayers; especially when there are more pressing concerns to address in San Diego like crumbling roads and homelessness. 

Photo via GA-ASI