Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

DHS Seeks to Detect Ultralight Aircrafts Used by Drug Traffickers

Borderland Beat

Ultralights DHS looks to detect the aircraft when being used to smuggle drugs into the US
As the war on drugs continues with every sunrise and sunset, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has awarded a contract just short of $100 million for a specialized system which will be able to detect ultralight aircrafts which are used to smuggle drugs across the border.
 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) started thinking about such technology more than two years ago. Drug cartels now use slow moving aircrafts that fly at low altitudes, making it hard for radars to detect, in order to transport drugs. The agency has called this “an immediate, high-priority threat” and asked contractors for an existing sensor technology that could enable authorities to identify and monitor low-profile aircraft attempting to smuggle drugs into the United States.
Federal Aviation regulators classify ultralight aircrafts as any aircraft with one seat, weighing up to 254 pounds, and carrying five gallons of fuel.   
 California Watch reports that last week DHS awarded SRCTec Inc. a $99.9 million dollar contract to produce the system. Officials want the system to be able to track as many as twenty-five “items of interest” at any time and to be capable for deployment in remote areas.
 This grant is part of the Secure Border Initiative (SBI) which was launched during the Bush administration and has continued through the Obama administration to use twenty-first-century technology to help officers more readily to identify border crossers and expand the area they could patrol more effectively
Two years ago SBI suffered major setback when a planned “virtual fence” of radars, sensors, and surveillance cameras did not meet expectations. The lead contractor, Boeing, received hundreds of millions of dollars from the program before DHS secretary Janet Napolitano concluded that the fence known as SBInet was hopelessly hobbles by shoddy technology, cost overruns, and missed and delayed deadlines.
The name of the program was dropped but the government continued to fund border surveillance technology, despite years of costly spending that saw little or no success dating back to the Clinton administration.
 Authorities have made up for the lack of success with SBInet by using pricey drones that cost between $18 and $20 million each and by using thermal imaging devices in truck beds that help Border Patrol officers track smugglers and illegal crossers at night.

Lawmakers and the president earlier this year approved the last piece of legislation introduced by Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona)., which targeted ultralights, before she was seriously injured in a mass shooting in Tucson in 2011. The Ultralight Aircraft Smuggling Prevention Act of 2012 seeks to close a legal loophole by stiffening penalties for smugglers who use the aircraft for drug trafficking.
Source: Homeland Security News Wire
posted on BB forum by Havana


  1. I wonder who the contract went to and I wonder what do they expect to do when they detect an ultralite in the air above US soil? I think detecting it is one thing but catching it before it crosses back over the border is another thing. I suppose a unmanned drone could swoop in on it with a flame thrower and drop him out of the sky like a rock. But oh wait, that might injure him, would that be politically correct? ja ja ;)

  2. They also make small ultralight helicopters,,,good post

  3. they should spend $100 million on American troops to spread out and protect the American border and catch the drugs while the come in, that way the cartels are losing drugs and money.

    1. Our troops will start being drug users and taking bribes

  4. That be our tax dollars at work! I guess almost anything even a suitcase bomb could come in on an ultralight. So, may as well.

  5. More waste. Time and money. Make it legal.....Oh wait, No more big money in that. Lo siento!

  6. i think this is bullcrap real shipments are being crossed in trailer trucks and through the much weight can one ultralight plane carry if its meant to be light.


  7. What a waste of money. !!!! Good lobbying on the company side !!! This will not stop. It's basic and anybody with common sense (good common sense) will understand and aknowledge that while the demand persist the offer will be there. Air-underground-above ground it doesn't matter !! Agencies know that prices have not increased by much over the past 10+years ...... Meaning the flow continues to be steady.

    Now for all the -posters- on this blog. Keep entertaining with all your non-sense comments

  8. I heard the cartels have stealth kits to reduce the radar signature of their planes.

    1. Some even say that shortlegs has nighthawks haha

      _yoshi phumo_

  9. Another total waste of taxpayer money lineing the pockets of big campaign contributors. Imagine if that $100 mil plus all the others of hundreds of millions was put into clinical help of those that wanted it. Or real programs, not bullshit D.A.R.E., that educate young people. Raise people right they raise their young right. Keep breeding big government , keep getting people who only see the propaganda and reality of the the system. Hsa just a way to cover up the fact you have no privacy and its getting worse. Bush, obama, clinton its all the same liars, puppets, political pimps. Suck it easy big gov .

  10. El senor de los cielos doesnt care he still gonna cross drugs, see the US security agencies like SRCTec got a 100 million contract ,im sure they crossing fingers to crime doesnt stop in mexico,in short, mexico drug war also help economic in the Usa thats why Usa doesnt care what happens down there as longest they get millions in contracts theyre fine, keep killing each other mexicans.

  11. Non competitive bidding and rampent corruption is the cornerstone of corporate/government relationships. The band leaders talk a game of patriotism and steal everything in sight.

    The cartels/corporations take advantage of the corruption. Look for a flood of cheap low flying drones. It of course is just a distraction from the sea containers that the main players all have their sticky fingers on.

  12. This sounds like another waste of money like the body scanners at airports its all Bullshit

  13. El senor de los cielos doesn't care because he is dead

  14. Ultralight aircraft are a problem. They fly low, slow and carry higher dollar value drugs, thus, they don't have to carry much to be worth the flight.
    Many are of the old wood and fabric technique of ancient aviation style construction. Composite material for frame and molded plastic outer covering has the same radar effect. That causes the radar's inability to detect them. They can launch from any road and land in a driveway.
    On the radar, they'll possibly be a small blip that often resembles terrain, like a small hill. The fact they also fly slow aids their difficult detection. The radar operator has to be real sharp to detect a slow moving 'hill' when everything about him is moving real fast. Many flights are at night without lights. They are rather quiet, thus reducing their audible and visual detection.
    Often agents are in a diesel engine SUV that’s much louder than the plane. So, the agent will never hear one, even if it goes right over the truck.
    Don't let the photo at the top fool you. Big Props don't reveal the size of the engine. A small one and a good muffler will make them very quiet.
    As for a UAV swooping in and flame throwing the plane - duh. They are less than 100 feet over the desert. The flamethrower incineration or shooting it down idea is dumb. Either would touch off the whole countryside. Here in the southwest we have had enough of that.
    The idea that it’d just burn the grass is equal to torching the whole pantry to kill a mouse. Grass is what ranchers use to feed their cattle. When pastures burn the cost of hamburger rises Ranchers then have to buy hay and the feed cost goes from zero to thousands of dollars per cow.
    Tunnels only work where there are buildings and in neighborhoods where the added vehicle traffic the operation requires will seem normal on both sides of the border. A tunnel and a new road to it that suddenly pops up in the open desert, on either side of the border, can be spotted rather quickly.
    The low flight small signature radar concept may be the thing needed. But it may also light up on flocks of birds as well. That, however, may also be helpful for commercial aviation to help detect such flights near airports and prevent events like what caused the Hudson River landing.
    The major problem is, those in a government agency seem to believe they are the only one that can develop things. They stay in their little box and dream up things to fix their situation, instead of going to others who do similar actions in different environments. The DOD has several things that would work for what DHS is needs to do. But, DHS, for some unknown reason, can't, or won't, get hands on to any of it.
    Much to the frustration of the DHS local agents and managers is that these decisions are at the very upper levels of the Administration. Until the thinking at that level is changed, we will forever stumble along a primitive path instead of moving over to a paved sidewalk. Heaven help them if they ever discover a skateboard and really move along.

  15. In May 2011, The Los Angeles Times reported that in the previous fiscal year, ultralights - sometimes with armed pilots - had entered U.S. borders illegally at least 228 times, double the number compared to the year before that.

    In just a quick search on Google, I only found 2 untralights that had been downed or crashed. As reported in the "Yuma Sun" in the June 1 edition, only two had been found (both crashed) in the Yuma Sector of Border Patrol. One in late July, 2oo9, carrying 275 pounds of marijuana and the other in November of the previous year, carrying 141 pound (the equivalent of what 2 "mules" on foot could carry in backpacks).

    If all 228 illegal border penetrations by ultralights that the LA Times reported for the year 2010 had been carrying marijuana, and if the loads averaged 200 pounds, that would total 45,600 lbs of drugs, or about what one loaded semi could carry.

    Throwing $100 Million at developing technology to "detect" ultralights seems to me kind of like using a 12 gauge shotgun to kill a mosquito. No, that is not a good analogy because the 12 gauge would least have a pretty good chance of getting rid of the mosquito. The 100 Million Dollar contract awarded SRCTec Inc. by the government is for technology to "detect" the mosquito, not bring it down.

    I know $100,000,000 is just pocket change for the government, but it still seems a cost/benefit analysis might be appropriate.

    Just more big dollars to be made by the powers that be in the war on drugs and another 100,000,000 reasons for not trying to win it.


  16. The question I have is why would this technology not already be included in our current Rader system ... Something smells

  17. Reading the forum as I try to, I began to read Chivis's ultralight story wondering what is wrong with Havana not posting this drone-category story in the forum and then I see her name at the end of this story and laugh because Havana says, "I'm all over drones, narco subs, and tanks. And now ultralights too I guess? Then I found it on the forum and it was Hahahavana. Too Funny in his predictability. Thanks to Chivis and Havana. There is much tp think about. More than you'd think.....

  18. 25 at a time? Well thanks for the info they will now launch 25 dummies alongside the 30 real ones .... fucking genius!

  19. drones are being used by Drug Traffickers to transport drugs.
    God love em!

  20. This story features a photo of four planes and none of them are ultralights according to FAA FAR 103.

  21. As a designer and manufacturer of these so called ultralights and trikes, I could have developed something to detect them flying low for about $10 million. What a waste of our tax money and I bet this will not work acceptably either

  22. Now that the Government plans to discontinue the (TARS)Tethered Aerostat Radar Systems along the border in March of 2013 the Cartel will not need Ultralight aircraft but simple fly across with regular aircraft that since back in the late 1980's had to land short of the border and find alternate ways to cross. This will be a great cost and burden to the staes that will now have to bare the cost and a great victory for the Cartels.

  23. What a travesty. It is a shame to see something that works so well get tossed aside. I have heard that the TARS program has been a very successful deterent and tool in combating these low and slow traffiking aircraft. You would think it makes the most sense to put the money there since it is already doing what they are looking for.

  24. Read a bit more about the program and you'll find out it is $100M but is what they call an IDIQ contract (stands for indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity) and has a 10 year length... they can order as many of the systems as they want or as few. The company who developed it only gets paid for the ones bought... not the $100M unless they buy the maximum quantity over 10 years... figure the math and it is not bad. The FAA and military radars (NORTHCOM), as stated earlier, are no good for detecting these targets. Ultra Lights are cheap by cartel standards so owning a fleet of them is not an $ issue for them and they are easy to learn to fly!.


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