Clearing customs after arriving in the United States is set to get faster thanks to a new electronic system. Rather than filling out declaration cards handed out during the flight, travelers will soon use self-service kiosks to answer customs-related questions. The machines will spit out a receipt which passengers will then show to a customs agent, along with their passport and travel information.
Known as the Automated Passport Control Program, the system aims to speed up the border-crossing process. The new technology was developed by the Vancouver Airport Authority and will be implemented in the Canadian city first. It will then be launched at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, which will be the first port of entry in the United States to make use of the automated system.”This technology will help expedite customs processing for passengers arriving to O’Hare, further strengthening Chicago as a global destination,” said Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a news release. “Being the first airport in the U.S. to implement these advances demonstrates how serious we are about making Chicago the first, best and most welcoming city in the country.”
[Photo credit: Flickr user CBP Photography]
While much attention is paid to the border between the United States and Mexico, our neighbors to the north have yet to encounter the scrutiny that they deserve. No prison-like fences or vigilante minutemen have stood in the way of people sneaking back and forth between the United States and Canada. Well, the U.S. government has decided that these shenanigans have gone on for long enough. According to Wired and the New York Times, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency will use an unmanned drone aircraft to patrol a stretch of the border between the two North American allies.
The Predator B aircraft will operate out of Grand Forks (ND) Air Force Base and will be the first of its kind on the northern border. Three similar drones currently patrol the border with Mexico. Residents of North Dakota and “a slim part of Minnesota” can now sleep easy knowing that a remote-controlled airplane is buzzing overhead and keeping maple syrup, hockey and the word “eh” where they belong.
Surely a great deal of research went into the decision to have the $10 million unmanned aircraft patrol just a 300 mile stretch of the 5,525 mile long border with our ally, right? Well, John Stanton, executive director of the Customs and Border Protection service’s national air security operations was asked if he expected the drone to uncover a rash of drug smuggling, illegal immigration or terrorism. His response: “We hope to actually use this aircraft to measure that. You don’t know what you don’t know.” Neat!
But at least these drones are foolproof. Well, about that. The drone was supposed to arrive in North Dakota last Thursday. Because of maintenance issues, it arrived on Saturday. And a similar drone on the southern border crashed in 2006 outside of Nogales, Arizona. No one was killed, but it did narrowly miss hitting a house. The cause of the accident was found to be human error.
Well, it may sound like a boondoggle, but I am certainly relieved that someone will be keeping an eye on those hosers. We’re still recovering from the Celine Dion invasion of the 1990s. There’s just no telling what they could sneak in next. Pray that it isn’t curling.