U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has officially begun deploying Autonomous Surveillance Towers (AST) systems along the southwest border, providing continuous surveillance operations.
“These towers give agents in the field a significant leg up against the criminal networks that facilitate illegal cross-border activity,” Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott said. “The more our agents know about what they encounter in the field, the more safely and effectively they can respond.”
The AST scans environments with radar to detect movement, orients a camera to the location of the movement detected by the radar, and analyzes the images using algorithms to autonomously identify items of interest, such as people or vehicles.
Agents are alerted to the activity and make the final determination on what the item is and if it poses a threat.
CBP initially piloted the towers two years ago with four towers in the San Diego Border Patrol Sector and has since deployed 56 additional towers. Authorities indicated CBP seeks to secure an additional 140 towers in Fiscal Years 2021 and 2022 to reach a total of 200 towers.
Investments in advanced technologies affiliated with AST, such as autonomous operation and artificial intelligence, are essential to border security and complement other agency capabilities.