April 11, 2012 in Nation/World

In brief: Lucasfilm abandons studio project plans

 

San Francisco – George Lucas’ film production company on Tuesday abandoned plans to build a sprawling studio in a rustic valley north of San Francisco, saying it has no desire to be seen as “an evil empire.”

Lucasfilm Ltd., the force behind the Star Wars movies, surprised Marin County by announcing that it has pulled the plug on the controversial Grady Ranch project, citing bitter opposition from neighbors and delays in the approval process.

The company said it would construct new facilities elsewhere and hoped to sell the historic farmland to a developer interested in building low-income housing in an area about 15 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Grady Ranch project would have marked a major expansion of Lucasfilm in Lucas Valley, which has been home to its Skywalker Ranch for three decades. The valley is named for a 19th century rancher with no relation to the Star Wars creator.

The plan called for a 269,000-square-foot digital media studio that would include a 51-foot-tall, mission-style compound with two 85-foot towers, two indoor sound stages as well as an outdoor stage of nearly 7,000 square feet.

U.S. Navy suspends drone operations

Los Angeles – The U.S. Navy has grounded a fleet of helicopter drones after two of the aircraft crashed overseas within a week.

Known as MQ-8B Fire Scouts, the robotic spy choppers were developed by Northrop Grumman Corp. engineers in Rancho Bernardo, Calif. Armed with high-powered cameras, radars and sensors, they were first deployed to war zones in Afghanistan and Libya last year.

On Tuesday, the Navy confirmed that it had temporarily suspended flight operations for its 14 remaining Fire Scouts while system performance and operational procedures are reviewed. It also said the crashes resulted in no injuries or damage to other aircraft.

In all, the Navy has ordered 168 Fire Scouts at a total estimated program cost of $5.6 billion. So far, the Navy has accepted delivery of 16 from Northrop.

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