DOUGLAS, Ariz. - Intended to protect the borders from illegal crossings and the import of illegal drugs, ten drones flown by U.S. Customs and Border Protection have also sparked a controversy over privacy.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection calls the pencil-like aircrafts unmanned aerial vehicles - or "UAV." It is better known, however, as a drone.
The Predator drone is pushed through the air by a propeller on the rear of the slender aircraft. It is equipped with a collection of cameras allowing agents to see in any light condition from an altitude of up to five miles.
The plane are piloted remotely and their images are reviewed in real time by agents at Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona. The data is used to help direct agents on the ground or in a helicopter to make a bust.
"The fact we can turn the lights off, we are almost stealth," said director of Air Operations Dave Gasho.
And that, critics say, that is the problem.
"If somebody wanted to sun bathe nude in their backyard, they would be observed," pondered Jack Knox, a resident of a border town named Douglas, Arizona.
"Do you have a code of conduct? Is there anything in place that can prevent you, or would prevent you, for example from looking in someone's backyard?” asked 7NEWS reporter Marc Stewart.
"Yes, there is. If there were surveillance requested of a particular residence, chief counsel has guidance. The office of Intelligence and Investigative liaison has what's called a 'COM' - a communications operations manager - that reviews our request."'
Border protection may have its rules, but at least 18 states and Congress are all considering bills, restricting the use drones.
So far, Colorado is not on the list.
The government admits they've used the machines to kill suspected American terrorists overseas and that fact is contributing to fear along the border.
"It's too easy for someone to just push a button and kill somebody," said Linda Knox.
"Could you drop bombs or fire weapons from this aircraft?" asked Stewart.
"Absolutely not. Even though this is the same aircraft - or platform - the Air Force uses, you know first thing, we're a law enforcement agency. We're bound by the laws and the ethics of civilian law enforcement," said Gasho.
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