ABC News -- April 24
Thus far the only statistics that border authorities have released to the public reveal pretty mediocre results.
After more than 5,700 hours of flying time last year --- at a total operating cost of at least $18 million --- drones helped agents confiscate just three percent of all drugs seized along the border last year.
And illegal border crossers? The drones helped agents apprehend just 143 people out of 365,000 apprehensions last year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
(Data acquired by SecureBorderIntel.org suggests a better record for the Predator --- but not much.) How to save a billion dollars
American Border Patrol is presently testing its own drone designed to work with the Sonic Barrier.
The drone - or small UAV (sUAV) - is an electric hexacopter that will launch when the Sonic Barrier issues an intrusion alarm. It will fly to the point of intrusion, send back video of the intruders, and then return to its home nest for battery recharge.
A cluster of four sUAVs will be placed along the border every five miles. They will launch and return automatically --- not requiring any human effort. Border Patrol will know what where - when and how many crossed the border.
A cluster of sUAVs would cost about $30,000 - or $2 million for the entire 400-mile Arizona-Mexico border. The Sonic Barrier would cost about $40 million for the same area or $42 million for the entire system.
Predators cost about $18 million and ABC says we would need at least 14 at a cost of $252 million --- and requiring 3,500 new CBP officers. The cost over 10 years will far exceed $1 billion.
ABP will be announcing public demonstrations of the new seismic-drone system in the near future. We hope we can get public support for a system that can do the job for a small fraction of what the Gang of Eight calls for.