SIERRA VISTA - A new aerial drone has been added to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection air fleet for patrolling along the Mexican border.
The agency unveiled the MQ-9 Predator B unmanned aircraft system on Monday at Fort Huachuca.
Starting in November, the drone will be flown for surveillance in support of border security operations along the Arizona-Mexico border. It will be used to find illegal immigrants and smugglers bringing them or drugs across the border and also to help locate people believed lost in Arizona's deserts.
In April, another Predator B drone, costing .5 million, crashed in southern Arizona. It had logged about 900 flight hours in southern Arizona since October 2005 and was credited with helping in the apprehension of nearly 1,800 illegal immigrants and the seizure of about 8,200 pounds of marijuana, a CBP spokesman in Washington said at the time of the crash.
In all, the drone that crashed and earlier ones used in testing have flown some 1,800 hours and contributed to 3,603 arrests and seizure of 11,000 pounds of marijuana.
The new Predator B has equipment allowing its command and control by satellite from Riverside, Calif., where the agency's air marine operations are headquartered.
It also has communications equipment enabling it to fly in nonrestricted, national air space, at higher altitudes and in areas that commercial aircraft also traverse, CBP spokesman Mike Friel said.
The new drone also has greater endurance, more monitoring and improved detection capability and can fly up to 287 mph.