Elbit UAVs patrolling Arizona-Mexico border

After a test period, the US Department of Homeland Security will decide whether to operate the patrols permanently.

The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) border patrol, a division of the US Department of Homeland Security, announced on Friday that it had commenced the first sustained civilian use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to curb illegal activities along the Arizona-Mexico border.

Two Hermes 450 UAVs, manufactured by Silver Arrow, a division of Elbit Systems (Nasdaq:ESLT; TASE:ESLT), will be used as part of the Arizona Border Control initiative to assist with border surveillance activities. They will augment manned aircraft, helicopters and ground sensors already in place. The cost of operations during the test period is $10 million.

The US Department of Homeland Security stated that use of UAVs would complement the other intrusion detection and intelligence gathering components of the border surveillance network to meet the mission of stopping the illegal entry of terrorists, smugglers and others into the United States.

News reports stated that the UAV is able to read a license plate, view a vehicle's occupants, and detect weapons.

The Hermes 450 UAV has up to 20 hours of flight endurance, reaches a ceiling of 5.5 km. (18,000 feet) operating at approximately 2.9 km. (9,500 feet), and has a maximum air speed: 95 knots (201.2 km or 125 miles per hour).

The UAV is equipped with electro-optic sensors and communications payloads providing day and night imagery. It is equipped with a communication capability used by ground control stations. The UAV is equipped with sophisticated communication systems transferring imagery in real-time to ground control stations.

Analysts say that aerial surveillance of the US borders could become a major market for UAV manufacturers in North America and abroad. UAV border patrol will commence with the US-Mexico border, and later on, the US-Canada border.

Published by Globes [online] - www.globes.co.il - on Monday, June 28, 2004

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