Friday, April 27, 2012

Defense Department drones at the border

WOLA’s report about U.S.-Mexico border security, published last week, says that the Defense Department is not using drone aircraft for surveillance on the U.S. side of the border zone.

The main reasons for this are that most Pentagon drones are being used in war zones, and because there are still concerns about air traffic control (the possibility of drones crashing into commercial planes). The Homeland Security Department’s Customs and Border Protection agency, however, runs six Predator-Bs, plus one maritime variant, out of Sierra Vista, Arizona and Corpus Christi, Texas.

In fact, WOLA’s report is already out of date on this issue. Testimony last week by the Pentagon’s top homeland security official, Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Stockton [PDF], reveals that, as of this year, four Defense Department drones are now operating out of Arizona.

They aren’t Predators or Global Hawks, though. They’re RQ-7Bs, far smaller craft with a 14-foot wingspan, usually launched by a catapult.

(Photo from Department of Defense.)