Desert Invasion - U.S.

Pictures of American Border Patrol UAV on the Arizona border

Map of American Border Patrol UAV flight area
Map of American Border Patrol UAV flight area

American Border Patrol, a private organization in Cochise County, Arizona, has recently completed a year of unmanned arial border patrols near Palominas.

The UAV (Uncrewed Reconnaissance Vehicle) is essentially an oversized model airplane, equipped with state-of-the-art cameras, navigation, communications and GPS equipment. The UAV works in conjunction with ground sensors that indicate where people are moving through the desert. The UAV has documented suspected illegal aliens moving along the San Pedro River and Huachuca Mountain corridor west of Naco, Arizona.

Border technologies Inc., a private enterprise spin-off of American Border Patrol, has invested nearly $250,000 on UAV development and has created a commercially-viable navigation system.

The U.S. Border Patrol plans to launch in June, 2004, two new remote-controlled, camera-equipped aerial vehicles. The U.S. Border Patrol Hermes 450 UAV's can fly at 18,000 feet at speeds 90 mph and can stay aloft for nearly 20 hours with a payload of more than 200 pounds. The aircraft is 33 feet long and weighs 400 pounds. (See article on first use of Hermes aircraft on the border).

Each Border Patrol Hermes aircraft costs $2 million, whereas the American Border Patrol Border Hawk costs only approximately $30,000 per aircraft. For the cost of two Hermes aircraft, American Border Patrol could fly up to 100 Border Hawk aircraft, including control stations and sensors - a decided advantage along the 300 miles of border covered by the Border Patrol Tucson Sector.

Glenn Spencer, head of American Border Patrol, is convinced that his effort will help the Border Patrol do a better job, stating:

"We have demonstrated that a low-cost unmanned aerial vehicle can be used to patrol the border and find suspected border intruders. Beyond that, we've created a means for an independent assessment of the problem. We're able to put the images up on the Internet to give an independent assessment directly to the American people of the effectiveness of our border patrol."

For additional information, see American Border Patrol website, pictures of first mission and Border Cam alert. Also see this article comparing the drones.

The American Border Patrol Border Hawk UAV (Uncrewed Reconnaissance Vehicle), ready for flight. It has a 9-foot wingspan and weighs less than 17 pounds.1


Border Hawk taking off by radio control. Once in the air, it will fly on autopilot between selected GPS points.1


Closeup of the camera. Both daylight and night (infrared) cameras are used.1


Live picture taken from the plane. All images are recorded to TiVo for instantaneous playback and review during the flight. The images can also be uploaded in real-time via satellite for viewing on the internet.1


Inside the mobile control and communications van.1


One of the flight control screens. The topographic map displays the flight path.1


Picture from UAV on patrol, June 18, 2004



View video of Border Hawk UAV using night imaging to find suspected illegal aliens, KGUN TV, Tucson.

1 Photos 2004 Fred Elbel