“We didn’t ask for them” — Homeland Security adding 3 drone aircraft despite lack of pilots.

A MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle prepares to land after…

A MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle prepares to land after a mission. U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

The Homeland Security Department is adding three surveillance drone aircraft to a domestic fleet chiefly used to patrol the border with Mexico even though officials acknowledge they don’t have enough pilots to operate the seven Predators they already possess.

The new drones are being purchased after lobbying by members of the so-called drone caucus in Congress, many from districts in Southern California, a major hub of the unmanned aircraft industry.

“We didn’t ask for them,” said a Homeland Security official who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak frankly.

Every unmanned aircraft requires not just a ground-based pilot, but a platoon of surveillance analysts, sensor operators and a maintenance crew.

Homeland Security officials say they ultimately hope to deploy 18 to 24 drones along the borders.

Source: Brian Bennett for the Los Angeles Times.

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