On Saturday, a Predator drone touched down at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. The unmanned spy plane will provide eyes in the sky for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which currently employs three Predators to monitor the U.S.-Mexican border.
The Predator's arrival was delayed by mechanical failure on Thursday -- and bad weather forced cancellation of another flight on Friday. According to the Grand Forks Herald, a Citation jet accompanied the drone on its cross-country journey from Sierra Vista, Ariz., in order to comply with FAA regulations.
Complying with civilian flight rules remains a tricky issue for the pilotless aircraft. Aviation Week reports that Customs and Border Protection has yet to reach agreement with the FAA on the flight restrictions for the Predator that will operate along the Canadian border. Initially, that drone will be controlled from North Dakota; its surveillance feed will be piped to operations centers in Washington, D.C., and Riverside, Calif.
Customs and Border Protection is planning to establish unmanned aerial vehicle operations centers for Northern Border Region and the Southeast Coastal Region. Drones in the north will focus on homeland security and defense; in the Southeast Coastal Region, they will focus on maritime security missions.