Report: US Testing Autonomous Drones for Border Agents

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will soon test autonomous drones that would provide “situational awareness” to agents working between immigrant ports of entry.

The drones, known as autonomous small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS), are being developed by Planck Aerosystems Inc. of San Diego, California, Defense One reports.

The company, founded in 2014, received $200,000 in additional federal funding last Thursday to field-test the devices over as many as six months.

Planck Aerosystems has been working with the Homeland Security Department’s technology division on the drones. The company has already received from $50,000 to $200,000 for various phases of the project.

The money granted last week would finance the field-testing phase of the drones, according to Defense One.

“Planck’s system capability enables a sUAS to launch from and land on the bed of a moving vehicle, in addition to providing fully autonomous navigation coupled with a securing mechanism, advanced computer vision capabilities and customized communications interfaces,” the Homeland Security division, Science and Technology Directorate Silicon Valley Innovation Program, said in a statement.

“Through a combination of integrated technologies, including full-motion video, automatic target detection and geolocation, Planck seeks to provide CBP agents with a portable, ruggedized detection system that provides real-time situational awareness in the field.”

Melissa Oh, managing director of the Silicon Valley Innovation Program, told Defense One that the Homeland Security operation was “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.”

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