From border patrols to weather radar
A Predator drone of the sort used by the American military to launch missile strikes in Iraq and Afghanistan was sent up three times in recent weeks to give officials a bird's-eye view of the swollen Red River as it threatened Fargo, N.D. It was a first for the unmanned, remote-controlled plane. Equipped with radar and infrared cameras that can see in the dark and peer through clouds, the aircraft provided remarkably detailed, real-time video images of ice floes, flood patterns and any trouble spots along the levees protecting Fargo. "The aerial views are extremely valuable because it's hard to put everything in perspective when you're looking at isolated incidents," Mayor Dennis Walaker said this week. North Dakota asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the use of the Predator, which is based at the Grand Forks Air Force Base and normally is employed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency to scout the Canadian border for drug traffickers, illegal immigrants and terrorists. By week's end, the flood threat at Fargo was subsiding.