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U.S. border patrol uses drones to detect desert runners

Posting in Environment

A new military sensor has been hooked up with a drone to detect those in the desert trying to enter the United States illegally.

The aptly-named VADER, which stands for "Vehicle And Dismount Exploitation Radar," was first connected to a Predator drone in Afghanistan and used to track moving insurgents. Now, the U.S. military has given the VADER to the border patrol, so it can be used to scan and detect those trying to sneak across the U.S-Mexico border.

Over a three-month period, the radar was able to detect and detain 1,874 people in the Sonoran Desert, but an additional 1,962 people were detected and escaped -- which raises some interesting questions concerning how many people manage to cross without detection every day. Although the Government Accountability Office estimated this year that 64 percent of those trying to cross the border illegally were caught, the radar's evidence now suggests otherwise.

See also: Plans to outfit Mexico-U.S. border with sensors scrapped

If this result is representative of how many people attempt the crossing, and the actual success rate is lower than official estimates, this could cause issues for the White House, which is trying to pass immigration reforms next week.

Although the VADER's detection facilities would become confused in urban environments, for large swathes of sparse land, this type of technology can be successfully employed to help keep borders secure, as well as give analysts a deeper understanding of the crossings. To this end, the agency has asked Congress to set aside funds to purchase two more radars, which cost $5 million a year to operate.

Via: LA Times

Image credit: Charlie Osborne/ SmartPlanet

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— By on April 4, 2013, 10:01 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure