Since March 2013, the U.S. has flown some 10,000 drone missions over a 900-mile stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border, mostly in Texas, looking for signs of illegal immigration and drug smuggling, The Associated Press reports, citing "two officials with direct knowledge of the effort." The Predator B drones fly over the same stretch of remote border area twice within three days, and their high-resolution videos are subjected to software analysis to look for any tiny changes in the terrain.
The drone missions are meant to augment and help direct, not replace, the more than 18,000 Border Patrol agents working America's 1,954-mile-long southern border, Customs and Border Protection commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske tells AP. "You have finite resources." About 92 percent of the drone flights have revealed no telltale changes, but another 2 percent have provided evidence of illegal border-crossing, usually resulting in greater surveillance of the area. Border Patrol is expected to start deploying the drones along the Canadian border next year. AP has more in the video below. --Peter Weber