Recently, Europe experienced an immigration crisis that saw more that 1 million immigrants cross over European borders. Most of these immigrants came from Africa and the Middle East, and many are still fleeing to Europe daily. In an effort to help maintain border policies and safety, the European Union adopted a new plan to help border control agents. This is plan is called Roborder and it utilizes swarms of piloted and autonomous drones to patrol border cross points. Similarly the United States of America has been struggling with maintaining control over it’s borders. Now the US government is trying to follow in the European Union’s footsteps to see how drones can help with border control issues.
In the year 2000, there were 1.64 million arrests of immigrants illegally crossing the US border. Now, almost a decade later illegal immigrant numbers have skyrocketed to close to 100,000 a month. Regardless as to how you feel about President Trump’s migrant policies, the simple fact is that the Customs and Border Protection agency has a job to do. And their job is to maintain control over the border, monitoring each and every person leaving and entering the country for the safety of the nation. This is not a policy unique to the United States of America, it is a policy followed world wide. And as the number of undocumented migrants continue to rise it is clear that humans alone are not enough to control the border.
The Customs and Border Protection agency along with the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate Silicon Valley Innovation Program has partnered with a drone technology company based out of San Diego, CA. Planck Aerosystems was founded in 2014 by Dave Twining and Josh Wells to take an already working platform and make it better. Planck realizes how valuable drones can be when it comes to securities and commercial ventures. But they saw a gap in how drones are deployed from a stationary position. They created a system that allows drones to launch and land from a moving object like the bed of a truck or a boat out at sea.
According to the FAQ section on their website, “Existing drone technology is built around a static environment, and assumes that the ‘home’ position is not moving. As soon as that assumption is changed, so much stops working. A moving platform doesn’t just move forward or backward. It moves up and down, side to side, and rocks and rolls. Not only does the landing have to be precise, it has to respond to a rapidly changing situation. In addition, wind around moving platforms complicates things further. It isn’t just about knowing where you want the drone to go, but also how to get there in a safe, reliable manner.”
Planck Aerosystems has raised over $4 million dollars in the last 2 years perfecting their drone system that relies on a combination of artificial intelligence, computer vision, advanced controls, and the most rigorous testing imaginable. They have now been awarded a contract to begin the final round of testing along the United States borders. The drone, a small UAS (sUAS) will be able to aid CBP agents along the rugged borders they patrol. The drone will be able to launch from an agent’s truck to gather information about the area and then return to the same (or a different) agent’s truck when needed. These drones will be able to access areas agents can’t get to rapidly. It is these “blind spots” where most illegal crossing occur.
One concern that often comes up when people hear of drones being used in this type of a capacity is that the drones are taking away jobs for humans. However, this is not the case. These drones are being used to assist agents to preform their jobs with greater accuracy and proficiency. In fact, drones help further employment opportunities as trained personnel are often needed to operate the drones. As Melissa Oh, managing director of the S&T Silicon Valley Innovation Program, said, “S&T is looking for technologies to enhance the efficacy of CBP patrols while simultaneously increasing the safety of patrolling agents. We look forward to the ways Planck will further refine its technology in support of this homeland security mission.”