UAV missions boost tech presence on border

A Predator B unmanned aerial vehicle will begin its first surveillance flights over the border between the United States and Canada in early February, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials said.

The test flights are part of a plan to link aerial imagery and data with a network of marine and ground sensors and other technologies along the border, they added.

Officials said the agency has been flying UAVs over the border with Mexico since 2005 to augment data collected by sensors and other technologies. They had announced Predator B flights over the Canadian border as part of a test program nearly two years ago, but they only recently completed negotiations with the Federal Aviation Administration and other entities to obtain the necessary approvals, Juan Munoz Torres, a CBP spokesman, said Dec. 11.

The Predators are capable of flying 260 miles per hour for more than 18 hours at altitudes of 50,000 feet. The new Predator B will operate out of Grand Forks, N.D., and carry radar, infrared camera, video camera and communications equipment.

In March, CBP officials said they were refining a security strategy for the northern border and intended to demonstrate an integrated air, land and marine solution. Congress included $20 million for a northern border security demonstration project in the fiscal 2009 budget.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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