CBP Briefs Cuellar on Texas UAV, FAA Update Meeting Today
Congressman Cuellar to Meet FAA Administrator Today for Update on Texas UAV
On Wednesday, officials from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) briefed Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) on the unmanned aircraft system expected to patrol the Texas-Mexico border by this fall. The technical briefing reviewed the operational capacities of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), in anticipation of an impending flight approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.On Wednesday, officials from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) briefed Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) on the unmanned aircraft system expected to patrol the Texas-Mexico border by this fall. The technical briefing reviewed the operational capacities of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), in anticipation of an impending flight approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Today, Congressman Cuellar and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison will meet with FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt to review the status of the pending Certification of Authorization (COA) for UAV flight along the Texas-Mexico border between El Paso and Corpus Christi, Texas, in addition to the Texas coastline along the Gulf of Mexico.
"This is a homeland security priority and we need to know where FAA is in the approval process," said Congressman Cuellar. "Last week, FAA gave CBP approval to fly from Arizona to West Texas, and now we need clearance for the remaining 1,200 miles of the Texas southern border."
Pending FAA approval, the remotely-piloted aircraft could provide CBP with air, land and marine intelligence to combat illegal activity along the Rio Grande and Texas coastal waters along the Gulf of Mexico. If the flight track is approved by the FAA, CBP would have the operational capability to deploy a Predator B land-based aircraft or a dual purpose land-marine Guardian Maritime aircraft to the Texas-Mexico border this year.
The CBP-operated UAV would provide real-time actionable information to border patrol agents on the ground. This would allow border patrol agents to immediately deploy response vehicles, boats, helicopters or other aircraft to security situations along the border, as is border security practice in other southern border states where UAVs operate.
"These aircraft will increasingly become a familiar means for providing homeland security," said Congressman Cuellar. "The real time intelligence they provide will benefit our domestic security strategy and give us a new tool to meet the evolving threats of the 21st century. CBP has a vision to expand this border security program and Texas is a part of that plan."
Wednesday’s meeting between Congressman Cuellar and CBP officials from the Office of Air and Marine, was in advance of Thursday’s meeting with the FAA Administrator to review the status of the pending certification of authorization. Congressman Cuellar, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism, will relay to FAA how this certification is a homeland security priority and critically important to securing 1,200 miles of the nation’s southern border.
"I still expect that we could see a UAV flying in Texas by this fall," said Congressman Cuellar. "CBP has relayed to me logistical preparations for a UAV program specific to Texas and those preparations are a good sign as we wait for FAA approval."
Currently, CBP Air and Marine operate several Predator B unmanned aircraft systems along the northern and southern borders of the United States. These remotely piloted aircraft have a long duration of flight, up to 20-30 hours, and have provided to the Department of Homeland Security critical national intelligence information to secure the nation’s land borders.
Congressman Henry Cuellar is a member of the U.S. House Homeland Security, Agriculture, and Government Oversight & Reform Committees in the 111th Congress. Accessibility to constituents, education, health care, economic development, and national security are his priorities. Congressman Cuellar is also a Senior Whip and member of the Blue Dog Coalition.