CBP to test small drones in Southern Arizona

WASHINGTON, DC (KGUN9-TV) - Small drones could play a bigger role in stronger border security.  

That came out Tuesday in Homeland Security hearings chaired by Arizona Congresswoman Martha McSally.

McSally's subcommittee is looking into boosting technology as part of border defense.

Customs and Border Protection has used large unmanned aircraft for more than ten years.

They can spot smugglers or immigrant groups in distress, and stay in the air for up to 30 hours.

Arizona Congresswoman Martha McSally chairs the House Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee.

Looking into ways to use more technology to secure the border, Customs and Border Protection says for fast response, filling gaps in aerial coverage and giving agents on the ground a better idea of the situation around them, CBP will try smaller drones that may stay up a half hour to maybe three hours.

Scott Luck is Acting Deputy Chief for Border Patrol.  He says, “Now we want to test those (the small drones) in an operational testing environment in Arizona, in South Texas and in Swanton, Vermont coming up in September."

McSally questioned CBP about how it has reduced air assets in southern Arizona.  

"I understand there's increased activity in other sectors but still 50 percent of the marijuana comes through the Tucson sector and especially in the hot summer we have a number of deaths in the desert and the air assets are very critical to getting to people before they, before it's life threatening."

The agency said it has shifted aircraft as areas like South Texas became busier but southern Arizona still has more manned aircraft, and drones than any other part of CBP and should not face any more cuts.

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