Unmanned Planes Touted for Border Control

A project begun six months ago to strengthen border security in Arizona has resulted in increased seizures of illegal aliens, drugs and weapons along with increased criminal prosecutions, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said Tuesday.

The Arizona Border Control (ABC) Initiative included the use of additional technology, resource and manpower commitments, among them the lease of two Hermes 450 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) supplied by Israel's Elbit Systems [ESLT].

The UAVs allow greater coverage of the border area with Mexico, including remote mountainous areas where dedicated surveillance is difficult. DHS said the UAVs have flown over 477 hours and assisted in several rescues, over 780 apprehensions, 11 drug-related detections and the seizure of over 500-pounds of Marijuana.

The Hermes 450 flights are scheduled through the end of September although the ABC Initiative has been extended beyond its original Sept. 30 end date through the fall, DHS said. The department is reviewing the possibility of renewing the effort again this year.

Separately, DHS said that an integrated 10-print digital fingerscan biometric identification technology is now operational at every Customs and Border Protection station throughout the United States ahead of schedule. The new capability allows CBP Border Patrol agents to search several databases at once to quickly identify individuals with outstanding criminal warrants.

The program is based on DHS's Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) and the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). As part of the US-VISIT program, the technology is slated to be installed at all 115 air and seaports of entry and the 50 busiest land border entry points by Nov. 15.