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Radar may be used to detect migrants

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

PHOENIX – Radar surveillance technology used at nearly 200 Air Force bases around the country is now being tested along the Arizona border as a means to detect illegal immigrants.

The system was developed under a contract with the Air Force by Scottsdale-based Sensor Technologies and Systems Inc. It’s being tested for 12 to 18 months along the Arizona-Mexico border, STS President Walker Butler said.

The company has been doing trials in southwestern Arizona for several months and plans to add a site in southeastern Arizona within the next several weeks, he said.

Arizona is the only state on the Mexican border where the company is testing the devices.

Testing the technology is another component of the Arizona Border Control Initiative – an effort to add more agents and better technology to deter illegal entries through Arizona, the busiest illegal crossing point on the Mexican border.

The initiative already utilizes remote-controlled aerial drones and forward-looking infrared thermal imaging cameras to search for migrants and smugglers.

A problem with the Border Patrol’s current system is that daytime and infrared cameras are fixed on areas where agents think immigrants will cross, Butler said. Unlike infrared cameras alone, radar can scan 360 degrees.

There may also be an opportunity to place the devices farther north of the border to detect migrants that may have been dropped off by smugglers, possibly reducing the number of heat-related deaths among immigrants, Butler said.

The technology is cheap compared to other options because it can be attached to camera poles – typically five or six stories high – already installed along the border.

Each system costs about $100,000, should the Border Patrol decide to buy the technology after testing is complete. Comparatively, the cost of using two unmanned aerial vehicles just for the summer is estimated at $4 million.

The Air Force has been using the technology for years to monitor ramps at runways at bases. Andrew Air Force base, where Air Force One is housed, is also about to add radar.

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