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.

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

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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.

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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.