Surveillance drones have taken security and safety a notch higher. The U.S. government is using drones to patrol more than half of the U.S.-Mexico border. The border stretches for 1,954 miles, separating the two countries. The vast border makes policing difficult and requires a large human force for patrolling. Therefore, drones have taken over this job and reduced the work by half. Since 2000, the number of Border Patrol agents on the 1,954-mile border have more than doubled to surpass 18,000 and fencing multiplied nine times to 700 miles.

Illegal immigrants and trespassers have been exploiting the vulnerability of the extensively long border. Since 2011, traffickers have made at least 562 illicit flights across the U.S. border in ultralight aircraft such as helicopters, single-engine planes or gyrocopters. Those pilots often fly their aircraft just above the tree line in rugged areas, making it difficult for border agents to detect or track them. The aircraft typically carry about 200 pounds worth of drugs, according to a 2017 Government Accountability Office report. Therefore, to curb such activities, the U.S government has started use of the Predator-B drone to patrol the border. The Predator drone is used in that stretch of the border where there are no agents, camera towers, ground sensors or fences.

The Predator B drone.

Much details of the working of the Predator along the border has not been made public but some basic facts were disclosed. The Predator-B drones sweep remote mountains, canyons and rivers with a high-resolution video camera and return within three days for another video in the same spot. Once the drone returns after its second voyage, the two videos are compared and any tiny change in the footages spotted. The resolution of the picture taken by the drone is tremendous and can spot changes like the tracks of a farmer or cows or perhaps those of immigrants who entered the country illegally.

US Customs and Border Patrol agents fly a drone from a trailer.

The U.S. government has operated about 10,000 drone flights under the strategy, known internally as “change detection”, since it began in March 2013. The flights currently cover about 900 miles, most of the areas lie in Texas. The drones fly out of Sierra Vista, home of the US Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, or Corpus Christi, Texas. They patrol at altitudes between 19,000 at 28,000 feet and between 25 and 60 miles of the border.

Watch how these drones managed by on-ground personnel secure the U.S-Mexico border: