Predator drones may soon be scanning U.S. waters for smugglers.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it's buying two Predator B aircraft for sea patrols. The models, which were being rolled out Monday at the manufacturer's plant in Palmdale, have radar sensors that can detect boats. They could be in action early next year.
Agency officials said one of the aircraft will be tested in the Caribbean, with a base in Florida, but it could be used to aid patrols in the San Diego area.
There have been a series of boat-based smuggling attempts along the San Diego Coast in recent weeks, including last week off La Jolla, when agents used a Blackhawk helicopter and a Midnight Express Interceptor to stop a panga with 22 illegal immigrants onboard
A second Predator will be based in Corpus Christi, Texas, for use in the Gulf of Mexico.
The remote-controlled drones will look for smugglers of drugs and illegal immigrants.
A different Predator version already is used for land patrols in Arizona and North Dakota.