early half of the Mexican border is already patrolled by drones, and the U.S. military is set to expand that reach to the Canadian border, reducing personnel needs, Business Insider reports.
The traditional approach of staffing the border with sensors and personnel has been on a dramatic uptick since 2000, with Border Patrol agents doubling to over 18,000, and fencing increasing to 700 miles of distance.
But the introduction of drone technology could soon change the entire scene and uproot decades-old practices. The drones, termed Predator Bs, survey terrain looking for disturbances in topography, such as broken twigs and trash, at which point agents are dispatched to a particular area for enforcement. First, drones survey an area and take video footage and return days later to take even more footage. Software is used to analyze any discrepancies between the footage to detect any changes in topography that might have been caused by illegal aliens.
“You have finite resources,” R. Gil Kerlikowske, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, told Business Insider in an interview. “If you can look at some very rugged terrain (and) you can see there’s not traffic, whether it’s tire tracks or clothing being abandoned or anything else, you want to deploy your resources to where you have a greater risk, a greater threat.”
Over 10,000 drone flights have used this new strategy since early 2013 with fairly accurate results. Only 4 percent of alerts turn out to be false positives.
“We can no longer focus only on static defenses such as fences and fixed (camera) towers,” Republican Rep. Michael McCaul from Texas said, coming out in favor of drone surveillance.
In response to security and privacy concerns, Lothar Eckardt, the executive director of national air security operations for the Customs and Border Protection, said that the public shouldn’t be worried, since drones, first employed in 2006, still cannot capture details like license plate numbers and faces.
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