CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas -- U.S. Customs and Border Protection is using more unmanned aircraft in its work along the border with Mexico.
Remotely piloted Predator aircraft complement Border Patrol agents' efforts on the ground, guiding them through the darkness to illegal immigrants hiding in scrubland or alerting them to smugglers' incursions. One night last week, a Predator found two men hiding in brush just feet from a spot where agents had passed without noticing.
By the end of the year, the border agency will have six drones stationed in Arizona and Texas, and it hopes to add more.
The Predators fly at 19,000 feet, looking for smugglers of illegal immigrants, drugs and guns.
Agents say they're effective but expensive. A Predator system -- the plane, sensors, control consoles and antennas -- costs $18.5 million.