Mexican Drone Crashes in South Texas

The Department of Homeland Security is now using a new tool for guarding the Mexican border that's proved very effective overseas: predator drones. CBS

Updated 4:20 p.m. ET

Federal authorities are investigating why a Mexican drone was in Texas airspace and what caused the unmanned surveillance aircraft to crash into a backyard in El Paso.

The crash occurred after sunset Tuesday behind a house in a former agricultural area, the El Paso Times reported Friday. Police Detective Mike Baranyay said no one was injured.

U.S. officials did not release the exact location of the crash. The neighborhood is separated from Mexico by the Rio Grande, floodlights, the 15-foot to 18-foot tall border fence, a chain-link fence, a line of poles with surveillance cameras and a highway, according to the newspaper.

"We responded to a concerned citizen's call and recovered a small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), which belonged to the Government of Mexico," said Jenny L. Burke, a spokeswoman for Homeland Security, in a statement.

Keith Holloway, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, described the drone as a mini orbiter unmanned aerial vehicle.

The El Paso Times reported Friday that Border Patrol Agent Ramiro Cordero says numerous agencies were involved in returning the unmanned drone to Mexico on Wednesday.

Holloway described the equipment as a mini orbiter aerial vehicle.

Jenny Burke with the Department of Homeland Security says the agency responded to a citizen's call and recovered the drone, which belongs to the Mexican government. She says Homeland Security worked with Mexico and other U.S. agencies to co-ordinate return of the drone.

"We are collecting data about the crash. We don't have the aircraft because it was returned to its owner," Holloway said.

Baranyay said the Border Patrol handed the drone back to Mexican officials at one of the international bridges. Border Patrol Agent Ramiro Cordero told the newspaper that numerous agencies were involved in returning the aircraft.

Officials at the Mexican consul's office in El Paso did not immediately comment.

Vincent Perez, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, said the congressman's office was notified about the incident Thursday after asking the Department of Homeland Security about media reports of the drone.

"We don't have all the details yet, but we expect to receive more information" said Perez.

Reyes, a former chief of the Border Patrol's El Paso sector, chairs the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

John Concha, a spokesman for the El Paso Fire Department, said emergency units were not sent to the crash site because no one was injured

The use of unmanned drones has exploded in the last decade. The U.S. has employed them for bombing and surveillance missions in Pakistan and other parts of the Middle East, and has increasingly used them to monitor the border and even for domestic surveillance.

The state of Texas is nearing approval to fly drones over South Texas and the border region.

There are two types of unmanned planes: Drones, which are automated planes programmed to fly a particular mission, and aircraft that are remotely controlled by someone on the ground, sometimes from thousands of miles away.

As the FAA weighs the barrage of requests, America's heavy reliance on drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan has come under increasing fire from the international community, with a United Nations official issuing a report arguing that drone strikes amount to a "license to kill" without any accountability - a license the U.S. would not want any other country to have.

As CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reported, an operation the U.S. government doesn't even admit exists has killed more than 500 people.

More on America's Drone Warfare:

Obama has Increased Drone Attacks
Afghan Drone Attack Report
High Tech Drones Aid Terror Hunt
60 Minutes: America's New Air Force
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