The program of unmanned drones that patrol the Arizona-Mexico has been suspended by the federal government so they can "evaluate its effectiveness". Since their deployment last summer the Hermes class ummanned drones have apprehended 965 illegal aliens and confiscated 843 pounds of marijuana. The Hunter class drones have apprehended 287 illegal aliens and seized over 1,900 pounds of marijuana.
I hope they are simply evaluating which version to expand and use more widely, but according to some quotes in the article below it sounds like there's even the potential for the program to be scrapped.
San Diego Union-Tribune (via Lonewacko)
Aerial drones patrolling the Arizona-Mexico border will be grounded after the current contract expires next Sunday so the federal government can evaluate the program's effectiveness, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection says.
Immigration authorities have been testing unmanned drones on the border for months, using them to help agents spot illegal immigrants and smugglers.
"It's undetermined when the program will start back up," said Mario Villarreal, spokesman for agency. "I would say sometime this year."
A "refined requirement" for using the military aircraft as border enforcers will then be developed, and the government will put out a request to the private sector to provide a new unmanned vehicle program, [Villarreal] said.
He said Congress appropriated $10 million for the program for its fiscal 2005 budget year, which began Oct. 1. "There is money left over for continued use," Villarreal said.
Other than the apprehensions and drug confiscations I mentioned above, exactly how successful were these unmanned drones? Did they underperform?
Aviation Today (via The Tarpit)
Paul Olski, director of aviation joint planning and development in the Department of Homeland Security, said that the three Hermes 450 UAVs patrolling the Arizona-Mexico border were so successful that the agency plans to purchase "a number of Hunter UAVs." During a three-month test period, the Hermes, flying at about 15,000 feet at around 90 knots, spotted some 853,000 people crossing the border, according to Olski.
How can you ground such a successful program? This is ridiculous. The real problem is that with 853,000 people illegally crossing the border during a 3 month test period there's not enough agents to apprehend them all.
Crossposted to The Command Post