Electronic Surveillance of Border by Drones Expensive, Ineffective, According to Report
This Ars technica article reports on Department of Homeland Security electronic surveillance of the U.S./Mexico border by drones. Drawing from a Homeland Security study published December 24, the Ars article lists highlights. Similar Wall Street Journal story on the DHS report here.
Specifically, the OIG also noted that CBP’s estimated drone cost per hour ($2,468) is actually about 80 percent lower than the true cost ($12,555 per hour).
Drones have been in operation along the border for eight years, according to the article and report.
Drone operations cost for current fiscal year were estimated at $62.5 million, Customs and Border Protection plans to spend another $443 million to expand the drone program.
Among the problems: drones were operating only 22 percent of the anticipated 16 hours per day.
However, an article in The Guardian (13 November 2014), “Half of US-Mexico border now patrolled only by drone” claims:
The US government now patrols nearly half the Mexican border by drones alone in a largely unheralded shift to control desolate stretches where there are no agents, camera towers, ground sensors or fences, and it plans to expand the strategy to the Canadian border. …
About 92% of drone missions have shown no change in terrain, but the others raised enough questions to dispatch agents to determine if someone got away, sometimes by helicopter because the area is so remote. The agents look for any sign of human activity – footprints, broken twigs, trash.
About 4% of missions have been false alarms, like tracks of livestock or farmers, and about 2% are inconclusive. The remaining 2% offer evidence of illegal crossings from Mexico, which typically results in ground sensors being planted for closer monitoring.
Maybe the U.S, needs a new electronic surveillance program to find better measures of the effectiveness of border drones.