So far, Customs and Border Protection has deployed dozens of advanced surveillance towers to strengthen border security, primarily along the U.S. border with Mexico, and it appears the agency plans to continue to role out the autonomous technology to more locations along the border.
Through June 19, CBP has deployed 124 Autonomous Surveillance Towers (ASTs), mostly in Texas and California, the agency told HSR in June in response to queries about the program. Of the AST systems currently deployed, the number and Border Patrol sectors are: 45 in Del Rio, Texas; 25 in Laredo, Texas; 10 in Big Bend, Texas; 27 in San Diego, Calif.; 15 in El Centro, Calif.; and two in Havre, Mont.
Going forward, CBP is planning additional deployments in Del Rio, Big Bend and San Diego, and in the El Paso and Rio Grande Valley sectors in Texas, the agency said.
The ASTs are supplied Anduril Industries using its Sentry Tower and artificial intelligence-based Lattice platform that the company says “uses computer vision, machine learning and mesh networking to fuse real-time data into a single, autonomous operating picture.” CBP in its fiscal year 2022 budget documents says that the autonomous capabilities of the system mean fewer agents are needed to operate it and highlights that it they run on renewable energy so are not attached to a grid.
CBP says it plans to deploy 200 ASTs.
The ASTs, which can be quickly re-located, can detect and identify human targets out to 1.5 miles and vehicles out to ranges beyond 2.5 miles.
CBP has also deployed a number of Integrated Fixed Surveillance (IFT) systems, which include camera and radar sensors, and related communications. These sensor systems, which can detect, track, identify and classify items of interest up to 6.2 miles away, provide automated, persistent wide-area surveillance.
CBP told HSR that no one single tower system meets all the needs of the Border Patrol.
The integrated surveillance tower “program solutions for the remaining areas of responsibility include upgrading legacy towers with new technology, new surveillance towers (with combinations of cameras and radars), and the potential use of the autonomous, expeditionary capability) currently deployed under the AST program,” CBP said.
Elbit Systems‘ [ELST] Elbit America division based in Texas is the prime contractor for the IFT program.
CBP isn’t requesting any new procurement funding in FY ’22 for either the IFT or AST programs. The agency says it has $28 million in FY ’21 funding to purchase 30 AST towers.
CBP is asking for $12.4 million in operations and support (O&S) funding in FY ’22 for the ASTs and $1.6 million in O&S funding for the IFTs.