Droneland Security: Predator Aircraft Guard Mexican Border; Canada Next

Drones...they're gaining popularity for everything from firefighting to delivering burritos.  Yet it is their sociopolitical applications that currently seem to have the most attention.  Perhaps it is because they will help save the lives of military and law enforcement, or perhaps it is because of their manageability.  Now, they have been tasked with acting as border patrol agents, but with mixed results.

As reported by arstechnica.com, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) now uses drones to patrol over half of the U.S.-Mexico border.  Using Predator B-type drones, videos are taken over certain areas, and then subsequently re-shot several days later.  This enables CBP to examine the photographed terrain for noticeable changes, such as vehicle tracks or footprints from humans and livestock.

One major benefit of drones is that they'll patrol the desert as readily as a nice beach.
(Image courtesy student.societyforscience.org.)

"Law-abiding people shouldn't worry" and "cameras are unable to capture details like license plate numbers and faces on the ground," Lothar Eckardt, CPB's executive director of national air security operations, told the Associated Press. This is not as reassuring as the actual results of the program.

A mere 2% of the missions indicated evidence of illegal border crossings, and those areas were then secured by more thorough "ground sensors" by CPB. Another 2% were inconclusive, and 4% were false alarms. It is difficult to determine if the drones simply didn't find any evidence or were not able to look hard enough.

Nevertheless, the program is set to move up to the Canadian border in 2015.  The original "change detection" program over the U.S.-Mexican border was launched in 2013.

Does anyone else want to see a buzzard or vulture pick a fight with a mountain-region drone?
(Image courtesy deadlinelive.info.)

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