SAN DIEGO (CBS) — The U.S. military’s “eye in the sky” may soon make its debut over a wider swath of California.

Border officials want to expand the U.S. drone surveillance program in the state to airspace east of the metropolitan San Diego area.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said they expect the Federal Aviation Administration to grant permission for the expansion.

The drones currently patrol an area about 1,200 miles wide along the state’s southwest border spanning from east of El Centro to the Gulf of Mexico.

Federal officials credit the $18.5 million unmanned aircraft program with slowing illegal drug trafficking and immigration activity along the border since 2005.

Air safety advocates, however, fear that an accident similar to the Predator B crash that occurred in Nogales, Ariz., in 2006 would have disastrous consequences on the more densely populated Southern California region.

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