Lynn Swearingen (c) copyright 2011 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED



Predator drones do routine domestic duty

Once-secret hardware now helps fight fires, surveys damage from floods and inspects dams and levees.

Most days, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer David Gasho sends three unmanned spy planes into the skies over the rugged Sonora Desert to hunt for drug smugglers crossing into southern Arizona from Mexico.But in mid-June, as the largest wildfire in Arizona history raged, Gasho sent one of the Predator B drones soaring over residential neighborhoods in search of another threat — rogue brush fires. Working from an air-conditioned trailer, his crew aimed an airborne infrared camera through thick smoke and spotted a smoldering blaze. More