For years, the U.S. Customs and Border Protections has been on the front lines of domestic drone use. In 2010 alone, drones were credited with leading to the arrests of more than 62,000 illegal immigrants, nearly 2,000 smugglers and more than 800,000 pounds of drugs.
As California Watch reports, a new contract with a San Diego aeronautical company may offer a glimpse into the agency’s hope for the future of drones on the border:
The border agency has locked in a five-year deal with a San Diego-area aeronautical company estimated to be worth as much as $443 million, according to a document posted Nov. 1 on the federal government contracting opportunities website. An estimated $237 million of that would buy up to 14 drones and related equipment. Whether Customs and Border Protection will actually get the money to spend is another question.
Congress hasn’t appropriated funding beyond the 10th drone the agency just received, which will fly from Cape Canaveral, Fla., and the agency hasn’t asked for any more for the 2013 fiscal year.
Funding for a new fleet of border drones is up in the air. However, in the coming years drones may not be as expensive. The drone technological landscape is rapidly changing.
The immersion of drones in the domestic market may drive overall costs lower. Yet, with more hobbyists building drones, it’s only a matter of time before smugglers and border crossers adapt and use the technology themselves.