Eva Knott 9:36 a.m., May 23
Customs and Border Protection agency wants to buy more drones from General Atomics - lack of Congressional funding an obstacle
Local aeronautical company General Atomics, manufacturer of the Predator and other unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, has signed a lucrative contract with U.S. Customs and Border Protection that could be worth as much as $443 million, California Watch reports.
The five-year contract includes $237 million to purchase up to 14 drones, which would more than double the government agency’s fleet.
For the time being, however, it doesn’t look like any of those drones are on the way. Congress hasn’t approved any funding for drone purchases beyond the 10 already on hand, and a June audit from the Department of Homeland Security, parent agency to Customs and Border Protection, recommends that no more drones be purchased until a budget and plan to maximize the use of the existing fleet is in place.
During the last fiscal year that ended in September Customs and Border Protection drones spent about 5,500 hours in the air, and were credited with aiding in the the seizure of 58,000 pounds of drugs, 130 arrests, and 1,408 apprehensions of undocumented immigrants. That’s still a drop in the bucket – in 2011 the agency last year seized a total of 5 million pounds of drugs and apprehended over 340,000 people attempting to illegally cross the border.