...Border Security By Drone

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Chances are you won't have to join the military to encounter a UAV. They've been in limited use over U.S. airspace for years but the Department of Homeland Security wants to use them regularly to patrol the border between Arizona and Mexico. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the flights are expected to start later this month and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is confident they'll help stem the tide of illegal immigrants and drugs. "It's deal terrain," commissioner Robert Bonner told the Union-Tribune. "There's nothing to hide. Not a tree in sight." Although there has naturally been some skepticism in the aviation community about sharing the skies with robots, the fears are unfounded, claims GA Aeronautical Systems President Thomas J. Cassidy. Cassidy, in a letter to Unmanned Systems magazine, says UAVs are just another blip on the screen to air traffic controllers. ATC instructions are relayed by the drone to its ground-bound pilot. They've even provided pilot reports (PIREPs) to help out other aircraft. Last year over eastern California, according to Cassidy, airliners were calling ATC looking for altitudes to avoid turbulence and controllers contacted the remote pilot of a UAV who reported "smooth ride" at the drone's altitude of 21,000 feet. "As far as the controller was concerned, the Predator B was just another airplane," Cassidy wrote.