U.S. launches unmanned aerial drones to monitor Manitoba border

Last Updated: Monday, February 16, 2009 | 8:36 PM CT

The Predator B drone, the first unmanned aircraft system to patrol the northern U.S. border, left, is followed by a chase plane as it lands at the Grand Forks air force base in December 2008.The Predator B drone, the first unmanned aircraft system to patrol the northern U.S. border, left, is followed by a chase plane as it lands at the Grand Forks air force base in December 2008. (John Stennes/Herald/Associated Press)

The first unmanned surveillance aircraft started patrolling the Manitoba portion of Canada's border with the U.S. after a launch ceremony was held on Monday.

Based at a military facility in Grand Forks, N.D., the $10-million Predator B drone aircraft are equipped with sensors capable of detecting a moving person from 10 kilometres away.

The aircraft is able to fly at an altitude of 6,000 metres and can remain in the air for 18 hours.

The planes will gather information as they fly along the 400-kilometre border and transmit it to operators who will in turn contact border agents. The drones will not carry weapons, such as missiles or laser-guided bombs, and the U.S. will need permission to send them into in Canadian airspace.

Manitoba has 12 official border crossings — only two are open 24 hours a day. Much of the land in between the crossings is either swampland, lakes or farmers' fields.

U.S. authorities are concerned that the border has areas that could potentially be exploited by drug smugglers, migrants and terrorists.

"They will try to find the weakest link, and the weakest link is clearly the long border between the U.S. and Canada," North Dakota Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan said. "It's very hard to patrol every square mile."

RCMP Staff Sgt. Ron Obodzinski said the surveillance planes will be a big help in the fight against the smuggling of drugs, alcohol and people.

"The program is going to enhance our relationship between our American partners and the Canadian agencies," he said.

U.S. border protection official Michael Kostelnik said that in these "dangerous times," it's more important than ever for both countries to know who and what is crossing the border.

"There are vast parts of the border where, on any given day, we're not sure what's going on, so part of this is to try to deal with the unknown and not be surprised," Kostelnik said.

Similar drones patrol the skies in Iraq and Afghanistan. The aircraft are also used along parts of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Monday's drone launch comes a day before Janet Napolitano, the new secretary of U.S. Homeland Security, is to get a review of the security efforts along the Canadian-American border, and just three days before U.S. President Barack Obama's first visit to Canada.




    Marisa Dragani reports: U.S. set to launch unmanned aerial drones to monitor Manitoba border (Runs: 2:17)
    Play: QuickTime »
    Play: Real Media »

    Your Vote:


    Manitoba Headlines

    Winnipeg's River Trail repaired, reduced, reopened
    Winnipeg's famed River Trail has reopened as a fraction of its former self. Unseasonably warm temperatures and rain turned the skating path into slush and forced officials to close it down last week. Outdoor enthusiasts can now return to the trail, which is about one-third of its full length.
    Man fabricates carjacking claim for a ride home: RCMP
    A Portage la Prairie man could be in a heap of trouble after he found a creative way to get home. According to RCMP, the man called them early Saturday, claiming his vehicle had been carjacked on a rural road. Turns out it was all a story to get a ride back to town.
    Man arrested for false 911 calls to Winnipeg police
    A Winnipeg man accused of making as many as 200 false calls to the 911 emergency system has been arrested and accused of assaulting an officer.
    Winnipeg police report rash of knife-point robberies
    Winnipeg police are reporting a rash of robberies in the city, including two holdups at ATMs and a delivery driver who was robbed and had his vehicle stolen.
    Winnipeg gets $7.5M boost to operating grant
    The City of Winnipeg is getting its allowance increased by $7.5 million thanks to a 5.2 per cent boost in the provincial operating grant.

    Canada Headlines

    Latest gunfire kills man, wounds another in East Vancouver
    One man in his 20s was shot dead and another man was in hospital with gunshot wounds after the latest shooting in Metro Vancouver, police said.
    Obama touts technology as solution to oilsands footprint
    U.S. President Barack Obama stopped short of calling the Alberta oilsands dirty in an exclusive interview with CBC News, but acknowledged that the industry leaves its impact on the environment.
    Inert Dziekanski didn't merit medical reponse, airport official testifies
    Potentially life-saving medical responders at the Vancouver airport were not called the night Robert Dziekanski died because they might have been needed in the event of some other emergency, a public inquiry heard Tuesday.
    Alberta First Nations place anti-oilsands ad in major U.S. paper
    An anti-oilsands advertisement placed by an environmental group and two northern Alberta First Nations appeared in Tuesday's edition of USA Today, the most widely circulated newspaper in the United States.
    Kenney says some Canadian Arab groups express hatred toward Jews
    Canada's immigration minister suggested that organizations like the Canadian Arab Federation and Canadian Islamic Congress should not expect to receive government funding because of their "hateful sentiments" toward Israel and Jews.

    People who read this also read …

    Top CBCNews.ca Headlines


    U.S. will respect trade pacts 'as we always have': Obama Video
    Washington's mammoth economic stimulus package will "enhance" the ability of trading partners such as Canada to work within U.S. borders over time, U.S. President Barack Obama told CBC News on Tuesday in an exclusive interview from Washington.
    GM, Chrysler to cut 50,000 jobs Video
    U.S. automakers are calling on the government to provide even more funding to ensure the survival of General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC.
    'We will maintain our share' of auto industry: PM
    Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he believes General Motors will stay put in Canada and that the country will continue to have a strong auto industry despite troubling economic times.
    Obama signs $787B US stimulus package into law Video
    U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed into law a $787-billion US stimulus package his administration hopes will help lift the economy out of recession.
    B.C. plunges into red to battle economic downturn
    B.C.'s Liberal government will invest $14 billion on an infrastructure plan it hopes will cushion the province from the worst effects of the world economic crisis and create up to 88,000 jobs in the next three years, according to the provincial budget released Tuesday.

    News Features