US border patrol officials plan to issue a tender on 26 May to buy the civil agency's first surveillance unmanned air vehicles. The Customs and Border Protection agency, a division of the US Department of Homeland Security, seeks a medium-altitude long-endurance UAV, support equipment, operations and maintenance staff and system integrator support.

Notice of the pending civil UAV competition appeared a few weeks after a US senator inserted a $10 million budget for the effort in a spending bill, which still requires passage by Congress and President Bush. The border patrol plans to launch operations in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2005, with total flight operations of 224h a month.

The field of competitors is already known to include Elbit Systems' Hermes 450, Boeing's ScanEagle and an undetermined member of the Northrop Grumman/Israel Aircraft Industries RQ-5 Hunter family. Northrop is formally offering the Hunter II vehicle, but is also willing to negotiate a sale of the less expensive E-Hunter.

The Hermes 450 and the Hunter were commissioned by the border patrol last year to stage multi-week demonstration flights along the Arizona-Mexico border, seeking out illegal immigrants and drug smugglers.


Source: Flight International