Eyes in the sky are opening to stop illegal border crossings

Within months, the Customs and Border Protection Agency will begin using unmanned aerial vehicles to identify illegal intruders at U.S. land borders, agency Commissioner Robert Bonner told industry and government executives April 1.

Although hundreds of agents have been added to the border protection staff, securing U.S borders isn't just about people, Bonner said.

"We have to use technology," especially in remote areas, Bonner said in Washington at a program sponsored by the McLean, Va.-based Homeland Security & Defense Business Council.

"The issue is how we can develop technology that will tell us if people are penetrating our borders at places other than official posts. We're hoping UAVs will be a force multiplier in our detection capabilities," he said.

The agency also needs technology can tell whether cargo containers have been tampered with after they have been screened in a foreign port and are on their way to the United States, Bonner said.

At 18 foreign seaports where the department's Container Security Initiative is in place, containers that have been identified as high-risk for tampering by terrorists are screened by X-ray and radiation detection machines before transport, Bonner said.

But "the current container is dumber than a fencepost," he said. "We want a container that gives us information about whether it has been tampered with."

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