Customs and Border Protection (CBP) last month began deploying eight new surveillance towers in the Border Patrol’s Detroit, Mich., Sector for the Northern Border Project component of the Secure Border Initiative technology program called SBInet.

In addition, CBP has already acquired three Mobile Surveillance Systems from Telephonics and has begun to operate them in two sectors of the northern border, Detroit and Swainton, Vt., Mark Borkowski, CBP’s director of the SBI program, tells TR2. Telephonics is a division of Griffon Corp. [GFF].

The eight Remote Video Surveillance Systems (RVSS) are being installed and integrated by SBInet prime contractor Boeing [BA]. When the deployment is completed along the St. Clair River, from Lake Huron to Lake St. Clair, it will cover about 35 miles of a mix of urban, residential, commercial and riverine environments, CBP says. Each RVSS tower is equipped with four cameras, two day and two night, that are pointed in different directions to obtain greater coverage.

The cameras can be controlled and slewed remotely to track activity.

“The Northern Border Project technology deployment will provide immediate capability to help Border Patrol agents expand their ability to detect, identify, classify, respond to and resolve illegal cross border activity,” Borkowski said in a statement. “At the same time this deployment will provide lessons learned that will enable CBP to design better tailored, longer-term technology options for the Northern Border.”

The Detroit Sector deployment follows construction underway in the Buffalo, N.Y., Sector, which began earlier this year on five towers along the Lower Niagara River. Those towers are in addition to four remote video surveillance cameras that were erected along the river in 2003.

The Detroit and Buffalo RVSS deployments are expected to be completed by early 2010. At that time Border Patrol agents may not be needed in certain areas to stand a constant watch as they do now.

Additional technology investments along the northern border are underway, with a focus on demonstrating capabilities to integrate sensors and data from a variety of sources, and provide that information to various entities that support border security along that border.

Borkowski says that refurbishing of an approximately 9,000 square foot building on Selfridge Air Force Base in Michigan is underway as part of a demonstration project that will house elements of the various federal, state and local entities involved with border security on the northern border. The plan is to bring as “much data as we think useful in one place” such as RVSS, CBP Air and Marine sensors, Coast Guard Automated Identification System and more, he says. The proof-of-concept demonstration would also include a feed from a Predator unmanned aircraft system although the aircraft itself would not be conducting any surveillance over the Detroit Sector, he adds.

The initial capability for the Selfridge facility is by the end of next May. At that point the plan is to have the “integrated operational community start using the data the way they see fit,” Borkowski says. “What I don’t want to do to early is start designing all kind of fusion and integration processes because my experience with that is I’ll get it wrong…So what we want to do in this facility is put the data in their sort of raw, let the operators start to put the pieces together that they think are important, and then use that to advise a future development of a fusion and data integration capability.”

Separately, CBP says that construction of SBInet towers and sensors along the Tucson-1 section of Arizona’s border with Mexico is nearing completion.