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Customs agency wants more drones for border patrols

19-11-2012

Following a year in which unmanned surveillance aircraft assisted in a record number of drug seizures and arrests along the U.S.-Mexico border, Customs and Border Protection is asking Congress for hundreds of millions more dollars to expand the program. The agency currently flies 10 Predator B and Guardian drones, each of which cost about $20 million. While the drones are sometimes grounded by bad weather, last year they were used to help seize 58,000 pounds of drugs and apprehend more than 1,400 people while flying a record 5,500 hours of missions. Those numbers are small compared to the agency’s total number of drug seizures and arrests each year, but they are a big increase over the UAV program’s previous totals. Now, the agency has put forth a plan to buy as many as 24 more drones from General Atomics at a cost of $443 million over the next five years, though Congress has not yet approved spending that money. The contract proposal comes five months after a government audit criticized Customs and Border Protection for wanting to expand its aerial surveillance program without first having a comprehensive spending plan in place.

http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Border_agency_looks_to_expand_drone_aircraft_fleet-179906411.html

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