US test­ing blimps, sur­veil­lance tow­ers on Mex­i­can bor­der


In 2011, the US Government ended SBInet, a ma­jor and un­suc­cess­ful at­tempt to build a vir­tual fence along the bor­der that cost nearly $1 bil­lion be­fore it was killed; DHS is now test­ing aerostats, and an 80-foot tower with sim­i­lar sur­veil­lance ca­pa­bil­i­ties, for bor­der se­cu­rity as part of an ef­fort to ex­ploit tech­nolo­gies that have been used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The US Bor­der Pa­trol is test­ing two blimp-shaped helium-filled bal­loons, which are on loan from the de­fense de­part­ment, on the Mex­i­can bor­der. Con­gres­sional staff mem­bers joined DHS and De­fense De­part­ment of­fi­cials re­cently near the bor­der town of Roma, about 415 km south of San An­to­nio, to see what the aerostats can do. Mem­bers of the me­dia were given a more lim­ited glimpse of the de­vices’ ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

The tech­nol­ogy has al­ready proven suc­cess­ful in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now US of­fi­cials think the blimps could be help­ful in track­ing drug smug­glers and il­le­gal im­mi­grants on a rugged stretch of the Rio Grande that does not have a bor­der fence.

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