Authorities in the southwestern state of Arizona have begun employing Israeli-built Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in border security, rescue and drug interdiction missions along the border with Mexico.
The aircraft are being used by the state of Arizona in a special operation aimed at tightening security along the 2,000-mile Mexican border. According to a report published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, since June, Israeli-made UAV's have assisted in the seizure of a quarter ton of marijuana in Arizona.
Two Hermes 450 UAVs, developed and manufactured by Elbit Systems, have logged over 477 flight hours in missions along the U.S.-Mexico border, including several rescue missions.
According to the report, the drones identified illegal immigrants attempting to cross into the U.S., and in several cases have helped deter smugglers.
Elbit Systems supplied the state of Arizona with the UAVs, the operating teams, as well as all needed equipment. The details of the deal have yet to be released.
The Hermes 450 is equipped with an avionics system supplying real-time intelligence data, which allows the aircraft independent flight and navigation using a GPS system. The aircraft then communicates footage to a ground control center and from there the information is passed on to the ground forces.
The UAV has a 1,500 kg payload capability, and can operate at an altitude of 18,000 feet for over 20 hours.
The Israeli Defense Force also uses the Hermes 450. Over the past year the unit has also been used successfully in a U.S. government experiment program in the Fallon navy base in Nevada.