US Drones' New Mission: Caribbean Drug Traffic

Homeland Security will increase surveillance flights
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2012 8:12 AM CDT
An unmanned Predato' drone flies near the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in this file photo from California.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – No wonder the US has so many drone bases scattered about the country: The drones keep getting extra duties. In the latest development, the US plans to ramp up flights over the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico to catch drug smugglers, reports the Los Angeles Times. The move will "dramatically increase US drone flights in the Western Hemisphere" and, in fact, double the square miles covered by Homeland Security drones, writes Brian Bennett.

The unmanned aircraft will fly out of Corpus Christi, Texas, and Cocoa Beach, Florida, and some might be based in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The big question is whether they'll be effective tracking down smugglers in vast expanses of open water, and 18 months of quiet testing didn't exactly wow DEA and Coast Guard officials, notes the LAT. In about 1,300 hours of flights out of Florida, one of the few notable busts wasn't of drug smugglers but of Haitian immigrants. (Read more drones stories.)

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