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Border Security Umanned Aerial Systems Working Group

The Borders, Trade, and Immigration Institute (BTI Institute) hosted the first meeting of its Border Security Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Working Group on Wednesday, May 17, at the University of Houston.

The purpose of the Border Security UAS Working Group is to collectively identify and address homeland security and public safety concerns associated with the employment of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) by terrorist elements, cartels, and other Transnational Criminal Organizations in our border and coastal regions.

Led by the BTI Institute, the Working Group serves to foster collaboration between university researchers, homeland security officials, and public safety officers in the conduct of research and development of innovative solutions to address homeland security needs. 

Lieutenant Danny Cardella, S2, Task Force Secure Texas, provides an intelligence update on illegal drone use reported in the US-Mexico border region.
Lieutenant Danny Cardella, S2, Task Force Secure Texas, provides an intelligence update on illegal drone use reported in the US-Mexico border region.

Membership includes representatives from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, US Coast Guard, the Federal Aviation Administration, US Marshals Service, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Military Forces, and officials from El Paso, Austin and the Port of Corpus Christi.  Also represented are directors and researchers from  the following Department of Homeland Security Centers of Excellence: the Borders, Trade and Immigration Institute; the Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE), the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), the Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute (CIRI), and the Coastal Resilience Center (CRC). Also participating are the Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence (Texas A&M) and the Combating Terrorism Center (United States Military Academy).  

Initial agreed upon objectives include

  • Identify research needs and opportunities for UAS – and adapt for border security and public safety activities
  • Explore tactical and technical developments in counter-drone technology to deny UAS support to terrorist elements and Transnational Criminal Organizations
  • Develop UAS tactics and applications for integration in future operational and strategic planning efforts
  • Promote the U.S.-Mexico border region as a test bed for UAS technology in border security and law enforcement operations
  • Educate the homeland security and public safety communities on laws and regulations regarding lawful operation of UAS
  • Educate leaders on UAS capabilities and those laws, regulations, and policies impacting the use of UAS systems in Homeland Security and public safety operations

During the meeting, Working Group members received an intelligence update on reported drone use in the U.S.-Mexico border region by Lieutenant Danny Cardella, Texas Military Forces, currently assigned to Operation Secure Texas.  BTI Institute Fellow, Joel Aud, provided a presentation on the potential use of tethered drones in surveillance and disaster response.  The meeting culminated in a briefing and demonstration by Fire Service officer Coitt Kessler of the Austin Fire Department’s RED Team on its advances in the use of UAS and robots in public safety operations. 

Officer Coitt Kessler, of the Austin Fire Department, discussed UAS capabilities  and limitations with members of the Border Security UAS Working Group.
Officer Coitt Kessler, of the Austin Fire Department, discussed UAS capabilities and limitations with members of the Border Security UAS Working Group.

The next meeting of the Border Security UAS Working Group is scheduled for July 19th at the BTI Institute on the University of Houston campus.

For more information, contact:  Kevin Clement, Executive Director, Strategic Partnerships, BTI Institute, KClement@uh.edu; 713.743.1676 (office)