Pilots Beware: UAVs Coming To
US/Canada Border Region
And With The Drones, Comes The Threat Of
It's about to get a lot more crowded in the
skies over the United States/Canada border, as the US government is poised
to begin flying Predator unmanned surveillance planes along the entire
5,500-mile stretch between the two countries.
The Winnipeg Free Press reports one
drone should be flying before September of this year, from a Customs and
Border Protection outpost in Grand Forks, ND. More will be coming... which
could spell trouble for pilots flying between the two countries, as the
unmanned vehicles pose a potential safety problem to other aircraft due to
their lack of "see-and-avoid" anti-collision equipment
(read, actual pilots onboard -- Ed.)
Past deployments of UAVs along the US-Mexico
border meant far-reaching TFRs within the
areas of operation... a scenario that would be especially
problematic farther north, as more pilots regularly fly between the US and
Canada than they do to and from Mexico.
Officials say the UAVs are a vital measure
to safeguard vast stretches of the largely remote border region, and to
prevent persons attempting to enter the country illegally from slipping
"Just one of the wrong people getting
through, driving through our border area, could spell catastrophe," said
Scott Baker, the newly installed CBP Chief Patrol Agent in Grand Forks.
"So, it is a concern."
Baker notes UAVs have flown similar missions
along the US-Mexico border for several years, mostly to detect illegal
immigrants coming across the border. However, those flights along the
Mexican border were halted after a Predator B drone crashed in southern
Arizona last April. The accompanying TFR
disappeared, as well.
Despite that accident, officials -- mostly
American politicians -- tout the enhanced security, coverage, and safety
the Predators could provide to CBP agents working along the vast Canadian
border. They also point to the Predator's successful record in combat
theaters such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
Doug Marshall, director of Project
Development at the University of North Dakota's Odegard School of
Aerospace Sciences, says when it comes to the Canadian border, the concern
is less about immigration than potential terrorists "finding a way to get
into Canada and then finding it relatively easy to get across the (US)
border. And it is easier. That's just a fact."
In addition to the Predators, CBP agents in
North Dakota will also get 22 pilots to fly manned missions in airplanes
and helicopters. Other deployment centers will be in Bellingham, WA; Great
Falls, MT; and Plattsburgh, NY.
One Canadian defense analyst told the Free
Press news of the UAV deployment may surprise other Canadians.
"Didn't we have the longest undefended
border for a very, very long time?" said Ian Glenn, chairman of ING
"It (the Predator) is just a robot that
flies," Glenn added. "And they're going to drive it up and down the border
and look for things. Will that be a deterrent to criminal activity? Yes.
Will it be a deterrent to terrorist activity? Yes, I guess."
A ringing endorsement, that...