Mr Blue's Sky
Gray Butte, CA: It's around 1 p.m. when my buddy Dave and I finally spot the General Atomics drone base, way out in the wastelands of the Mojave Desert.
We’re on the border of San Bernardino and Los Angeles Counties. There’s not much around for miles—nothing but sandy soil, rocks, Joshua trees, an abandoned trailer here and there, heaps of trash and tires. There’s also a salvage yard full of airplane parts a few miles down the road, as well as a dairy plant and a foul-smelling high density feed lot crammed with miserable dairy cows reeking of shit and piss, baking in the desert sun. Next door to that is a trailer with a sign offering baby goats for sale.
We stop short of the gate, pulling over on the shoulder. Dave is a Victorville native whose dad was in the Air Force. He' s been around drones since they started popping up here in the 1990s. Right after high school, he even scored a brief gig with the infamous Pinkertons, guarding an early prototype of the Predator. But today in our drop-top Mustang rental car—a perfect car for drone hunting—Dave and I look just like a couple'a tourists. I pretend to fumble with the roof controls while we check out the scene.
From afar, the base itself doesn’t look like much—just a jumble of low-slung prefab structures and warehouses and random industrial machinery flanked by vivid green alfalfa crop fields, and a solar field just beyond. That base could be anything. But it isn't just anything. We are looking at what used to be an abandoned WWII-era airfield, but today ranks as possibly the largest private drone base in the United States.
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