U.S. Customs and Border Protection to test small UAS in Arizona, Texas and Vermont



As a part of a pilot program starting this month, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has announced that the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) will begin evaluating small UAS (sUAS) in the operational environment.

During the pilot, three series of fixed-wing and rotorcraft sUAS—the Puma, Raven, and InstantEye Quadcopter—will be operationally tested in three USBP sectors, starting in Tucson, Arizona, and then transitioning to Rio Grande Valley, Texas, and Swanton, Vermont later this year.

“We anticipate the sUAS program to be a valuable tool for Border Patrol’s highly trained law enforcement personnel in securing our borders and helping identify and intercept illicit activity along U.S. borders,” says Carla Provost, Acting Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol.

Using the remotely piloted small UAS, Border Patrol agents in the field will have access to “reconnaissance, intelligence, surveillance, tracking and acquisition capabilities” in difficult to access areas, or areas that are considered too high-risk for manned aircraft or CBP personnel on the ground.

All of the UAS are designed to be portable, highly maneuverable and rapidly deployable, and will provide “vital sensory and visual data” to agents on the ground.

“These aircraft will enable Border Patrol agents to surveil remote areas not easily accessible by other means, which is critical to our ability to secure the border,” Provost adds.

“They will also be invaluable for humanitarian missions, aiding in locating individuals in need of medical assistance along inhospitable areas of the border.”

The sUAS pilot will be made up of two rotations in each of the sectors, with the first rotations starting this month, and the second rotations starting in January 2018.

After hot and cold weather capabilities are measured, CBP expects a final review in late spring 2018, which will include “future investment decisions and expansion of the program to other USBP Sectors.”

The USBP will operationally test the UAS under an approved Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the FAA and USBP.

The MOA in place “maximizes risk avoidance to commercial and general aviation traffic in the National Airspace System,” and the USBP also has an approved MOA with CBP’s Air and Marine Operations to further address “operational risk avoidance in day-to-day operations.”