The USAF has received seven of these bad boys, but number 8 will be defending the homeland:
Designed for high-altitude, extended-duration operations, the Predator B will provide long-endurance surveillance and communications relay in support of the CBP’s Arizona Control Initiative (ABCI,) and will be operated and maintained by GA-ASI personnel in close cooperation with CBP Border Patrol agents. Real-time images from the aircraft will enable proper assessment of intrusions and eliminate false alarm responses by agents, thereby increasing their patrolling effectiveness.
The US Border Patrol is spending over $14 million for the UAV. A year of support and maintenance is included, with an option to buy a second bird next year. That’s a lot of samolians, but if used properly it will be money well-spent.
The illegal immigration/drug trafficking/terrorists entry problem as I see it, though, isn’t so much a capability issue as it is a willingness-to-do-anything-about-it issue. At least strategically speaking. Still, when more eyes were provided by the Minuteman Project, it seemed to demonstrate that the problem was solvable with sufficient resources, so maybe this UAV will be a “force multiplier” for the Border Patrol like it often is for our military forces deployed overseas. Let’s hope so.