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Predator Drones Now Hunt For Illegal Immigrants Crossing US Border

Updated on December 8, 2009
The Predator Drone
The Predator Drone

 The US Homeland Security is now using the sophisticated military Predator drones to locate and track illegals crossing the US border along the Mexican border. These drones are the same ones used in Afghanistan with one difference, they are not armed with deadly missiles.

The drones fly out of their Antelope Valley airbase operated by a military contractor, General Atomics.  While this is new for the California-Mexican border, military drones have been flying along the Arizona border since 2005 and used along the Canadian border. Also different is that the B-type drones carry a special radar, cameras and sensors to detect humans at a cost of $13.5 million each and can fly up to 20 hrs without returning to base at a speed of 275 mph and so quiet that people on the ground cannot detect their presence (they fly at an altitude of 50,000 ft.). Known in the military as the "Predator", this version does not carry the deadly Hellfire missiles.

But the drones are not perfect. They can only fly in clear weather so controllers can visually see it, and for $13.5 million, a lot more less expensive items could be had to put in place along the border.


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    • John Bell Hub profile image

      John Bell Hub 

      19 months ago

      I was checking out this new drone a couple of days ago. This guy did a really interesting video review on Youtube. The drone is an Autel Robotics X-Star Premium Camera Drone with 4K Recording. It is orange in color and has a 4K camera with some awesome features. It costs a pretty penny. I read about it here: Is this a toy, or is this the kind of drone that the US uses for border purposes?

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      "Also different is that the B-type drones carry a special radar, cameras and sensors to detect humans at a cost of $13.5 million each."

      I believe included in those cameras and senors is night vision capability. I could be wrong, however, the last time I checked, the predator was able to fly at night and in in-climate weather. The controllers do not have to visually see the drone to fly it. The ones the military uses in Afghanistan and Iraq are controlled via satellite from a base in Arizona. The two operators sit in an office inside a building using mice, keyboards, flight sticks and monitors in a crude mock up of a cockpit. see here (image may take some time to load; You may have to copy and past the link in a new tab for it to work.)

      One man flies the Predator, monitors critical systems, and fires guns and missiles if available (aka. the pilot on the left in the picture). The second officer is called the weapons officer (whether or not hellfire missiles are actually loaded, he sits on the right in the picture). He is responsible for tracking targets (called that whether or not he is just observing, or engaging them). He does this using the various cameras and sensors on board the Predator. Infra-red and night vision are just two of the available cameras. If the Predator is armed with guns and missiles, then the second officer is responsible for arming them when a command center acknowledges it is OK to engage the target.

      Just sayin'... that's how I recently saw it on various media about the subject of the Predator drones and how they work.

      The one's the border patrol are getting may be different than the ones The USAF uses. However at a 13.5 million dollar price tag, and if illegals are coming over or under the fence at night I would bet that there is some form of night vision and in-climate weather capability.

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Very interesting, thanks!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Perry, this is good info with accurate commentary; thank you. As Arizona borderlanders living a mile from the Mexican border in Cochise County, not all that far from the huge Border Patrol station at Naco, we can tell you that the Predators' limitations make them virtually useless here. The coyotes lead their human smuggling convoys up through our area at night when visibility is low or nonexistent. When BP catches a batch (and each individual batch is getting larger these days), it's usually because the fence climbing border crossers got a late start and didn't quite make it to deep cover before the sun came over the horizon.


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