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Schumer-McCaskill Bill Would Add Drones to Patrol Border

If passed, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill’s (D-Mo.) $600 million, fully-paid-for border security bill would increase the number of unmanned drones patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border, Politico reported today.

Schumer and McCaskill praised the success of the drones already in operation along the border:

“A lot of people now think of drones in the way that they’ve been used in Pakistan in taking out Al Qaeda, but primary to the drones is their ability to get real-time surveillance,” McCaskill said. “ So imagine the advantage of getting real-time surveillance above the airspace where we have some lawlessness going on and what that could do to assist the people on the ground of manning up where they need to man up in terms of resources at the border.”

The Department of Homeland Security already operates seven drones in border areas: four in Arizona, two in Texas and one along the North Dakota-Canada border. Each drone costs millions of dollars, with the camera alone worth more than $2 million. The unmanned drones can fly for more than 20 hours at a time, but can only be used when weather is deemed clear enough.

The drone program has some detractors in the border security community, where border patrol agents and sheriffs have said money on drones would be better spent on more human law enforcement. Safety is also a concern: The Federal Aviation Administration said earlier this summer they need to finish writing regulations for unmanned aircraft before they can approve significant increases in the number of unmanned drones in civilian airspace.

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