The U.S. Navy announced on Wednesday that it has selected Naval Station Mayport to base its new squadron of unmanned aerial surveillance drones.

In addition to eight Triton drones, up to 400 sailors and their families will be stationed at Mayport.

Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville was chosen from three finalists the Navy named in April. The other two finalists were Naval Air Station Key West and the NASA Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia.


U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to the Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus last April, outlining why he thought Florida was the best choice for the new squadron.

Nelson cited the state’s proximity to both the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea and the ongoing maritime patrol operations already being performed there as reasons why Mayport should be chosen.

“This Triton will provide the aerial surveillance over the ocean we need and work in conjunction with our two Navy aircraft, the P3 and the P8. All of this is projecting a United States forces and our dominance of the seas,” Nelson said.

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford also applauded the Navy for choosing Mayport as the operating base for the MQ-4C Tritron.

“I am very pleased with the Navy’s decision, which will not only enhance our national security by helping the Navy carry out its important maritime surveillance missions, but is also a huge victory for the Jacksonville community, further strengthening our partnership with the Navy. Naval Station Mayport and NAS Jacksonville are critical assets for our country and our region,” Rutherford said.

The Navy’s MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicle is capable of flying for more than 24 hours at a time and surveying over 2.7 million square miles in a single mission. It’s used to provide sailors and Naval officers with real-time intelligence and surveillance, as well as to assist in maritime search and rescue operations.

The new sailors won’t arrive until 2019 and the drones won’t be at Mayport until 2020.