DHS fields robot planes on border

The Homeland Security Department today unveiled plans to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles as part of the Arizona Border Control Initiative to help block illegal crossings in remote, rugged areas.

Customs and Border Protection's Border Patrol will control and monitor two Hermes 450 UAVs that will join manned planes, helicopters and sensors already in place. The department said the deployment represented the first sustained civilian use of UAVs to curb illegal activities along Arizona's southern border.

The robot planes, which are capable of fully autonomous flight, will carry electro-optical sensors and communication payloads that will beam images to their Border Patrol controllers.

The Hermes 450 is made by Elbit Systems' Silver Arrow subsidiary of Haifa, Israel. According to specifications provided by the company, it can carry payloads up to 750 lb. and fly for as long as 20 hours. The aircraft has a ceiling of 18,000 feet but likely will operate at about 9,500 feet in the Arizona project.

'This is another example of the department's support to gain operational control of the Arizona border,' Asa Hutchinson, the department's undersecretary for border and transportation security, said in a statement.

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