GA-ASI Unmanned Aircraft Arrives in North Dakota

Dec 06, 2008

First Deployment expands Use of CBP’s Predator B UAS to the Northern Tier

GRAND FORKS, ND – 6 December 2008 – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) today announced the arrival of its first Predator B Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) on the northern border. This system – in use since 2005 on the southwest border – will enhance border security efforts and support CBP personnel on the ground along the northern border with Canada. The UAS is slated to begin operational flights as early as January 2009.

“The expansion of the UAS Program to the Northern Border represents a significant step forward in our border security efforts, using this proven, effective technology as a force multiplier for officers and agents along the border. This critical tool will enhance our valuable partnerships with Canadian and U.S. law enforcement entities alike by helping to identify and intercept potential terrorist or illegal cross-border activity,” said Assistant Commissioner for CBP Air and Marine, Maj. Gen. Michael C. Kostelnik, USAF (Ret.).

CBP Air and Marine’s UAS reduces the number of personnel required to gain operational control of the border and can assist other law enforcement agencies upon request. Built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in San Diego CA, CBP Air and Marine’s MQ-9 Predator B aircraft are capable of flying at speeds of up to 260 miles per hour, over 18 hours, at altitudes up to fifty thousand feet. The aircraft is equipped with the state of the art Raytheon electro-optical sensors. This advanced aircraft is also equipped with Synthetic Aperture Radar, helpful in documenting changes, for example due to floods. The aircraft and crews support the CBP priority mission of anti-terrorism as well as homeland security and disaster relief efforts. The virtually piloted Predator B allows CBP Air and Marine personnel to safely conduct missions in areas that are difficult to access by CBP personnel on the ground.

CBP Air Interdiction Agents flew the aircraft from Fort Huachuca Army Airfield in Sierra Vista, Ariz., at 7 a.m. local time and landed at its permanent duty station in Grand Forks , N.D., at 2 p.m. local time. The aircraft transited the United States in the National Airspace System across the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. The arrival of the aircraft, which was originally scheduled for Thursday, December 4, was delayed two consecutive days. On Thursday, the flight was cancelled due to a unscheduled maintenance problem discovered during the pre-flight check that could not be resolved before the approved flight window closed for the day’s approved flight. On Friday, the aircraft departed as scheduled, however, approximately two hours into the flight, the aircraft turned around due to greater turbulence than forecasted. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Air and Marine, planned a three-day window to fly the Predator B from Sierra Vista, AZ to Grand Forks Air Force Base, ND.

CBP opened the Grand Forks Air Branch, the fourth of five branches on the northern border, in 2007. Grand Forks provides a strategic, central location for UAS operations in support of law enforcement personnel throughout the region.

Nationally, CBP faces the challenge of interdicting criminal and terrorist exploitation of international passenger and cargo movements into the United States at 327 air, land, and sea ports of entry and 15 pre-clearance offices overseas. Between the Northern Border ports of entry, eight Border Patrol sectors protect against the illegal cross-border entry of people and contraband along the northern miles of border.

Along the U.S. Northern Border, CBP processes over 70 million international travelers and 35 million vehicles, makes approximately 4,000 arrests, and interdicts approximately 40,000 pounds of illegal drugs annually. The terrain, which ranges from densely forested lands on the west and east coasts to open plains in the middle of the country, is comprised of many sparsely populated lands with limited Federal, State, and local law enforcement presence along the immediate border area. As such, the UAS will serve as a valuable tool in securing our borders and supporting information sharing between and among law enforcement entities in this vast geography.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation’s border at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws

For more information contact:

Kimberly Kasitz
Public Relations Manager
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.

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