GRAND FORKS, N.D. (CP) — The Predator B landed in Grand Forks on Monday and the next mission for the unmanned aircraft will be patrolling the largest undefended border in the world.
Starting next month, the remote-controlled drone will take to the skies along the 49th parallel for what one North Dakota politician is a key part of the U.S. war on terrorism.
"It is vital to America’s security that we protect our borders, particularly the northern border," said Senator Kent Conrad.
"The Grand Forks Air Branch plays an essential role in helping shut the door on terrorists who want to sneak across remote border points to strike on U.S. soil."
The US$10.5-million plane is the first of four planned for Grand Forks. In its initial stages, it will patrol about 480 kilometres along the U.S. border, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection authorities.
It will use sensors to track people, illegal drugs or other contraband moving across the border but won’t carry weapons such as missiles or laser-guided bombs — though its manufacturer, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, says in its online brochure that the Predator can handle both.
Michael Corcoran, deputy director for air operations at U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine office in Grand Forks, said the plane cannot enter Canada without permission from the government.
"As far as it going into Canadian airspace, no, that’s just not what we exist for," he said.