very expensive toys

Did you know that unpiloted surveillance aircraft will soon be patrolling the Canadian-US border? Now doesn't that make you feel safer?
The United States government is poised to begin flying unmanned surveillance aircraft along the Canadian border, using Grand Forks as the takeoff point for the robot-controlled flights.

Before September, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, an arm of the federal Department of Homeland Security, will start sending propeller-driven drones called Predators into American airspace. At first one drone, with more to follow, will span much of the 8,900-kilometre frontier Canada and the U.S. share between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Never before has the U.S. kept such a close watch over its northern boundary. The move is a response to growing American fears that the entry of even one potential terrorist through Canada could have serious consequences, said Scott Baker. He took over last Friday as Chief Patrol Agent of Customs and Border Protection in Grand Forks, N.D., responsible for guarding the 1,400-kilometre stretch of border between Lake Superior and Montana.

"Just one of the wrong people getting through, driving through our border area, could spell catastrophe," Baker said. "So, it is a concern."

. . .

The fear terrorists will exploit that remoteness to penetrate the U.S. concerns American politicians, said Doug Marshall, director of Project Development at the University of North Dakota's Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences.

It also makes monitoring the border by drone more efficient than any effort involving humans.

"We don't have hordes of Canadians sneaking across the border to come shopping in Grand Forks," Marshall said.
Here's a bit from the above story: "Predators, known by the military as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, have flown missions along the U.S.-Mexico border for several years." Why, that must be why we never hear about illegal immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border anymore! Another problem solved, thanks to military technology. Hurrah!

This story from the Winnipeg Free Press has a sidebar about the drone aircraft. A similar remote-piloted aircraft ("the MQ-1 Predator is a system, not just an aircraft") cost $40 million back in 1997.

What a coup for the folks who make these toys, and the kids who get to fly them. TWOT has been very successful for some people.


Thanks to James for reminding me about this.

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