The decision came after some political hardball from Senator John Cornyn. The Texas Republican pressured the FAA to approve the plan by holding the nomination of Michael Huerta for Deputy FAA Administrator.
Senator Cornyn said it took nearly two years for the FAA to approve a request to fly unmanned planes from El Paso to Big Bend. The plan left open a large portion of the Texas border uncovered prompting Senator Cornyn and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison to ask for more coverage. That request was made in March.
“While the approval process should not have taken this long, I’m pleased to see the FAA moving forward,” Senator Cornyn said in a release. “The FAA needs to implement a system that will reflect the great importance of border security as well as the growing significance of UAVs in homeland security and national defense. Today’s announcement is an important step forward, but much work remains to secure our border.”
On May 14, the FAA approved the use of unarmed, unmanned surveillance drones over the border between Mexico and West Texas and New Mexico. Those flights began June 1. Drone flights were approved previously for the Arizona-Mexico border.
These unmanned, unarmed planes flying across the southwestern sections of the state will be launched from the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station on September 1.