Coast Guard and CBP using more unmanned aircraft for drug smuggling surveillance

In recent testimony before the House subcommittee on border and maritime security, representatives from both the U.S. Coast Guard and CBP told of their organization’s increasing use of aerial surveillance by unmanned aircraft to assist in their battles against illegal drug smugglers.

Rear Admiral William Lee, deputy for operations policy and capabilities with the Coast Guard, told the subcommittee on November 19 that the Coast Guard has established formal partnerships with CBP (to collaborate with CBP’s land-basedPredator unmanned aerial system, or UAS, program) and the U.S. Navy’s unmanned aircraft program.

“Incorporating the UAS capability with manned patrolling will improve detection and surveillance activities at a significantly reduced cost when compared to manned aviation,” Admiral Lee said in his prepared testimony. “During a recent proof of concept deployment aboard USCGC BERTHOLF, the ScanEagle UAS proved to be a superb force multiplier in two separate law enforcement cases, resulting in the removal of 570 kilograms of cocaine and the detention of six suspected smugglers.”

Randolph Alles, the assistant commissioner of CBP for the office of air and marine, told the same panel that CBP has identified new smuggling patterns that warrant the increased use of unmanned aerial systems.

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