The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is increasing its use of unmanned aerial drones to help track drug smugglers along the Mexican and Canadian borders, as well as in the Caribbean and other regions, the New York Times reported Dec. 8.
The drones, which soar at high altitudes and at long ranges, are already used along the Southwest border and the Canadian border for surveillance and tracking purposes.
The department's newest maritime drone, which cost $13.5 million each to build, has a special radar, sensors and cameras. The wide-range radar is said to provide a better view of the ocean than the government's current manned aircrafts.
The maritime drone will begin flying from Florida in January. Another drone will fly from the Gulf of Mexico by the summer. The drones will also be used to patrol the coast of Central America and Mexico. They may even fly over Southern California.
“This is an extraordinary step forward,” said U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad W. Allen. “It will help us immeasurably.”
One of the limitations of the drones is that the weather has to be clear enough for controllers to see where the drones are flying.
Critics of the program include the Border Patrol union's president, T. J. Bonner. “Unmanned aircraft serve a very useful role in military combat situations, but are not economical or efficient in civilian law-enforcement applications,” said Bonner. “There are a number of other technologies that are capable of providing a greater level of usefulness at a far lower cost.”