CBP Completes Unmanned Aircraft Surveillance in Great Lakes Region
US Customs and Border Protection's Office of Air and Marine announced that it concluded surveillance operations along the U.S. side of the maritime border of Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence Seaway, and the land border of New York and Ontario on June 25, 2009.
As part of a multi-agency effort called Operation Empire Shield, CBP deployed a Predator B unmanned aircraft system (UAS) and P-3 aircraft to the Northern Border to perform law enforcement operations.
"The deployment was exceptional," said Michael Kostelnik, CBP Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Air and Marine. "Operational objectives were met, and interagency and bilateral relationships were established and expanded.
The operation was designed to demonstrate unmanned aircraft operations and evaluate law enforcement coordination concepts over both land and maritime environments at the Northern Border. An after action assessment, which will be completed in coordination with multiple CBP offices, will be used to prepare for future UAS expansion.
CBP currently has six Predator B aircraft that provide unique border security surveillance capacity through superior optical equipment coupled with extended flight duration. CBP's unmanned aircraft typically fly up at 250 knots at an altitude of 19,000 feet while carrying up to 3,000 pounds of sensors for land and maritime surveillance and tracking in day and night environments.
Operation Empire Shield included a number of firsts for CBP's UAS program. On Saturday, June 20, 2009, CBP demonstrated the capability to fly and operate three UAS aircraft simultaneously in the National Airspace System via satellite.
On June 20th, UAS from North Dakota and Arizona were launched and executed law enforcement missions within their respective airspace. An hour later, the third UAS was launched from Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield in Fort Drum, New York and control of the remotely piloted aircraft was seamlessly transferred to a crew operating from the Air and Marine Operations Center in Riverside, California. All three aircraft performed law enforcement missions including streaming live video to select members of law enforcement, homeland security, and members of the U.S. Congress.
CBP also established a milestone by completing its longest duration UAS flight. On June 24, 2009, the UAS landed in New York after flying over 20 hours. The ability to fly for 20 hours is approximately twice the endurance of most manned aircraft, offering a unique and persistent surveillance capability to secure the homeland.
During this endurance mission, control of the UAS was passed between UAS operations centers located at New York, North Dakota, and Arizona.
The nearly 100 hours of CBP UAS flight operations in the Northeast are just one component of an integrated law-enforcement effort to secure the region. The UAS deployment serves as an exceptional opportunity for other law enforcement partners to participate and refine concepts of operations when working with advanced aircraft such as CBP's Predator B UAS and the P-3.
CBP Air and Marine continues to serve as a critical component and advocate of DHS' Secure Border Initiative. Advanced security operations such as CBP's UAS deployment along the Northern Border is a vital element of this strategy.
The Federal Aviation Administration remains a key facilitator and partner of CBP Air and Marine, helping to ensure CBP UAS flights in the Northeast integrate safely and seamlessly with other aircraft operating in the region.
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