Rising Surveillance: The Challenge of UAS Incursions at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Us mexico border at Tijuana

Tomas Castelazo, CC BY 3.0 

The Increasing Unmanned Aircraft Activities at the Border, and the Efforts to Enhance National Security Measures

In a recent update highlighting the monitoring challenges along the U.S.-Mexico border, the top official of the U.S. Northern Command reported that the region is experiencing a notable increase in unmanned aircraft system (UAS) incursions, with the numbers potentially reaching over a thousand incidents per month. This detail was shared during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, where Air Force Gen. Gregory M. Guillot offered insights into UAS activities along the border, as reported by Defense.gov.


General Gregory Guillot, Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command. (Department of Defense photo by Joshua Armstrong)

Guillot mentioned that while the exact number of these incursions is not known, estimates suggest a significant number, pointing to a concerning trend. “I don’t know the actual number — I don’t think anybody does — but it’s in the thousands,” Guillot said, indicating the frequency of such events. This assessment stems from his discussions with officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Justice, who are closely monitoring this issue.

Guillot’s testimony sheds light on the challenges posed by unmanned aircraft systems, which have been utilized by drug and human traffickers. Despite the absence of an immediate threat to national defense, Guillot voiced concerns about the potential for such threats to increase, signaling the need for ongoing attention and preparedness.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), in collaboration with Northcom, is tasked with detecting and countering aerial threats to North America, including those from UAS. This responsibility also involves safeguarding U.S. military installations against these unmanned systems. Guillot acknowledged current measures but also mentioned the need for more work to standardize procedures to address these challenges more effectively.

Going forward, Guillot plans to recommend ways for the Defense Department, the joint force, and Congress to improve NORAD and Northcom’s ability to standardize responses to UAS threats. This effort is part of a broader 90-day assessment aimed at tackling the increase in UAS incursions, a priority in Guillot’s early tenure.

Additionally, the incident involving a high-altitude Chinese balloon over North American airspace in early 2023 has prompted NORAD to fine-tune its radar sensitivity, enhancing awareness and response to aerial incursions. This adjustment highlights the continuous efforts to improve defense mechanisms against the changing threats in airspace, ensuring homeland security against unauthorized unmanned aircraft systems.

The rise in UAS use by illicit actors along the southern border represents a challenge for U.S. defense and security agencies. As they refine detection and response strategies, Guillot’s insights underscore the dynamic nature of airspace threats and the importance of a vigilant and adaptive defense strategy.

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Miriam McNabbMiriam McNabb

Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry.  Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.


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