By MATTHEW BROWN Associated Press Writer BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) The U.S. Forest Service has purchased a pair of flying drones to track down marijuana cultivators operating in remote California woodlands.
Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, who oversees the Forest Service, tells The Associated Press the pilotless aircraft will allow agency law enforcement officers to pinpoint marijuana fields and size up potential dangers before agents make arrests.
Rey says there is an increasing number of marijuana growers financed by Mexican drug cartels who are using California's national forests to stage their operations.
The SkySeer drones cost $100,000 each and weigh only four pounds. They were delivered to the Forest Service's aviation branch in Montana before being shipped to California.
One of the drones is equipped with a thermal camera for nighttime flights.