The Department of Homeland Security is extending its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) into the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico in an attempt to fight drug smuggling.
By expanding its program the US Drone will more than double the square miles they cover along the northern and southwestern U.S. border. The U.S. currently operates a fleet of nine drones in the area.
While the United States has been operating several high-tech aircraft in the area those flights have largely failed to impress military experts because of their failed attempts to fight speed boats and other craft used to smuggle drugs into the United States.
To help with the new drone surveillance expansion the military will debut a new control station in Corpus Christi, Texas this month, a base that will allow Predator drones to perform flights over a larger portion of the Gulf of Mexico. In Cocoa Beach, Fla., a single new drone will be added to the military’s fleet to monitor water over the Caribbean.
In order to fly the drones needed Federal Aviation Administration approval which they received for a flight path that overseas 1,000 miles to the Mona Passage, an area that covers in between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
In monitoring drug trafficking routes over the Bahamas border agents used a special variation of the Predator B UAV known as the Guardian. The UAV was equipped with a SeaVue radar system that is capable of scanning large areas of open water. The Guardian is able to check a ship’s unique radio pulse through a database which can identify the boat’s owner and ship type.
The US is sending more drones into the area after leaders in the western Caribbean asked for more drug agents, ships and surveillance aircraft to deal with a massive increase in drug traffic that has led to unprecedented murder rates throughout Puerto Rico.
In the meantime the Customs and Border Protection has asked for $5.8 million in additional financing to further push its drone operations further into the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.