U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Air and Marine is conducting an after action assessment of recent Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) operations along the U.S.-Canadian border.
But so far, it seems like a definite success. The agency – a unit of the Department of Homeland Security – says it achieved two agency firsts using General Atomics Predator B unmanned systems to patrol the land and water border between Canada and New York State.
First, CBP Air and Marine showed it could launch and operate three Predators simultaneously via satellite in the National Airspace System. On June 20, CBP Air launched two of its six Predators from their bases at Grand Forks, N.D. and Sierra Vista, Ariz. An hour later, a third Predator was launched from Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield, at Fort Drum, N.Y. and remotely piloted from the CBP Air and Marine Operations Center in Riverside, Calif. All three transmitted streaming live video back to controllers and observers.Predator B outside the hangar at Fort Drum, home of the 10th Mountain Division, in upstate New York. (Photo: CBP Air and Marine)
Then on June 24, the agency completed its longest UAS flight, 20 hours, during the upstate New York deployment, known as Operation Empire Shield. In addition to the Predator B, CBP Air also deployed a Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft to assist law enforcement operations along the northern U.S. border.
CBP Air and Marine credits the Federal Aviation Administration as a key facilitator of its UAS flights in the Northeast and seeing that they integrate safely and seamlessly with other aircraft operating in the region. Maybe this means FAA will be loosening up restraints some time soon on unmanned aircraft in the NAS.