How BVLOS Drones are Transforming Border Security

By Susan Becker, Marketing Director | June 3rd, 2024

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BVLOS Drones: Transforming Border Security

A vast desert landscape stretching endlessly or a dense jungle teeming with hidden pathways are the very environments that challenge traditional border security measures. As nations worldwide grapple with securing their borders, the integration of cutting-edge technologies has become increasingly crucial. Border control needs a persistent aerial eye capable of navigating these unforgiving terrains and transmitting real-time data to monitor expansive and remote areas for a quick response to imminent threats. 

Why Drones are Taking Over Border Patrol

Drones have become an indispensable tool in modern border security, increasing the efficacy and safety of border control operations. In addition to reaching remote areas inaccessible by vehicles, drones deliver a broader view from an aerial vantage point, resulting in multiple valuable benefits:

  1. Enhanced situational awareness: Drones can cover large areas quickly, capturing high-resolution images and videos for real-time monitoring and providing critical intelligence that enables threat anticipation and strategic resource deployment. They reach places difficult for ground patrols to access, ensuring continuous coverage of borders and immediate detection of unauthorized activities.
  2. Cost-effectiveness: Drones are a more economical choice than manned helicopters. They significantly reduce operational costs, including fuel consumption, pilot training, and aircraft maintenance. This financial advantage allows border patrol agencies to expand their surveillance capabilities and patrol larger areas without incurring additional expenses. Drones also reduce the need for extensive ground patrols, further reducing costs.
  3. Safety: Border areas may be perilous, with risks from rugged terrain, wildlife, or hostile individuals. Drones can operate in these areas without endangering human lives, providing a safer alternative for monitoring and response and reducing the potential for human casualties.
  4. Flexibility: Drones can be deployed in various terrains and weather conditions, offering unmatched operational flexibility. Whether it’s a dense forest, dry desert, or mountainous region, drones navigate these environments and provide real-time data, ensuring that geographic or climatic challenges do not hinder border control operations.
  5. Faster response times:  Drones can be quickly deployed in areas that need immediate attention, providing real-time intelligence to ground teams. In the event of a security breach or suspicious activity, drones are dispatched to the location within minutes, capturing live footage and enabling a quicker response to illegal operations. This rapid response improves the overall efficacy of border control operations. 
  6. Discreet Operations: Drones’ relatively small size and quiet operation allow for discreet surveillance, reducing the likelihood of detection by smugglers or other unlawful individuals. This stealth capability ensures that surveillance operations remain covert and effective.

BVLOS Communications Takes Drone Border Patrol to the Next Level

BVLOS (Beyond-Visual-Line-of-Sight) communications empower an operator to control a drone or UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) even when it’s beyond their direct visual range. It’s a significant leap forward from conventional drone operations, which typically require the drone to be kept within the pilot’s line of sight. BVLOS-powered drones unlock a range of benefits for border control operations:

  • Extended operational range with reliable connectivity: BVLOS connectivity allows drones to operate over vast distances, exceeding the limitations of line-of-sight operations while relaying live video feeds, sensor data, and other critical information to remote border control command centers. With BVLOS connectivity, border patrol agents can maintain real-time situational awareness, even when the drone is operating at a significant distance. This capability is particularly valuable in scenarios where drones may need to cover extensive areas along the border.
  • Remote control from anywhere: By leveraging BVLOS connectivity, border patrol operators can remotely control and monitor drones. This flexibility allows for centralized coordination and rapid response, regardless of the operator’s location. The central command center employs expert operators, irrespective of their physical location, ensuring consistent and specialist management of border security measures. 
  • One operator per drone fleet: BVLOS connectivity allows a single operator to simultaneously control a fleet of drones patrolling different border sections, ensuring constant coverage with a reduced workforce and quick incident response. It is instrumental in large border areas where deploying multiple operators would be logistically challenging and costly.
  • Jamming avoidance: When using cellular channels, BVLOS systems can provide reliable communication links that evade jamming and interference. This robustness is crucial for maintaining operational integrity and ensuring drones perform their missions without disruption. Reliable connectivity is essential in border areas where illegal actors may attempt to interfere with communication systems to avoid discovery. 

BVLOS Drones Expand Border Patrol Capabilities

Drones with advanced sensors and BVLOS communication revolutionize the way borders are monitored and secured. The applications of drones in border control are diverse and far-reaching, offering many benefits. Some notable use cases include:

  • Surveillance and monitoring: Drones patrol borders, identify unauthorized crossings, and monitor for illegal activities. When equipped with advanced sensors and cameras, drones detect movement and capture images even in low-light conditions. This capability is instrumental during nighttime when visibility is a significant challenge.
  • Search and rescue: Drones can assist in locating and rescuing individuals in distress in remote or hazardous areas. They cover large areas quickly, find lost or injured persons, and deliver essential supplies such as food, water, and medical aid until rescue teams arrive. This capability is crucial in border areas where traditional search and rescue operations are time-consuming and resource-intensive.
  • Counter-smuggling and anti-trafficking: Drones play a crucial role in combating smuggling and human trafficking activities along borders. By monitoring known trafficking routes and identifying suspicious activity on time, border patrol agents can respond swiftly and effectively.
  • Environmental monitoring: Drones can track environmental changes that may affect border security, such as floods or landslides. By monitoring these changes, drones provide early warnings to help formulate risk mitigation strategies. They are capable of detecting illegal logging, poaching, and other activities jeopardizing border regions’ sensitive ecosystems and wildlife habitats.

The Power of Portability, Fast Deployment, and Remote Control 

In border control scenarios, time is of the essence, and the ability to rapidly deploy drones with BVLOS connectivity is a game changer. Here’s where the importance of fast setup and portability comes into play. 

Whether monitoring a small section of the border or a larger region, portable solutions provide the necessary infrastructure to support instant and varying operational needs, enabling border control teams to deploy drones and commence operations without delay. It’s crucial for responding to emerging threats. Fast setup and scalable operation allow for quick adaptation to changing situations, boosting resource deployment to address new challenges as they arise.

BVLOS connectivity also enables remote control of drone fleets which is critical to maintain the safety of the operators. In addition, one operator can control a full drone fleet when using a robust connectivity solution. 

Examples and Real-world Applications

Drones have been increasingly employed worldwide in various border control operations, demonstrating effectiveness and benefits. Here are some examples showcasing their versatile applications:

United States: The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) uses drones to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border. These drones provide real-time surveillance, helping to detect and prevent illegal crossings and smuggling activities. The CBP’s drone fleet includes various models equipped with high-resolution cameras, infrared sensors, and advanced communication systems, allowing for comprehensive monitoring and rapid response to incidents.

European Union: The European Border and Coast Guard Agency, commonly known as Frontex, has been exploring the use of drones to strengthen border security across EU member states. Frontex’s drone operations focus on monitoring irregular migration routes, detecting human trafficking activities, and supporting search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea. In 2021, Frontex already signed contracts to expand aerial surveillance, amounting to a total of € 84.5 million and conducted numerous aerial surveillance flights to control pre-frontier areas and improve situational awareness to prevent the migratory flows by acting as an early warning mechanism.

India: The Indian Border Security Force (BSF) deploys UAVs along its borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh to enhance surveillance and reconnaissance. Drones monitor border areas, detecting infiltration attempts, and providing situational awareness to ground forces. BSF also utilizes drone-mounted radars to unearth tunnels along the border with Pakistan.

Future Prospects and Innovations

The integration of BVLOS drone connectivity in border control is expected to grow, driven by technological advancements and ever-growing security needs. Several trends and innovations are likely to shape the future of this field:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies will amplify drones’ capabilities by enabling automated threat detection, data analysis, and decision-making. These technologies help drones identify suspicious activities, analyze patterns, and provide actionable insights to border control operators.

The development of advanced sensors and payloads, such as hyperspectral cameras, LIDAR systems, and chemical detectors, will expand the range of applications for drones in border control. These sensors provide detailed environmental data, detect concealed objects, and identify hazardous materials, improving the overall effectiveness of border security operations.

Advances in battery technology and energy-efficient designs will improve drones’ flight endurance, allowing them to operate for extended periods without recharging. These developments will enable continuous surveillance and reduce the need for frequent maintenance and battery replacements.

Elsight’s Halo: Powering Uninterrupted Connectivity for Border Control Drones

Securing a vast border perimeter requires a constant flow of critical data between drones and ground control. Designed for the demanding needs of military applications, Elsight’s Halo connectivity platform delivers uninterrupted BVLOS (Beyond-Visual-Line-of-Sight) connectivity and unparalleled security for drone border control operations.

Halo ensures a continuous, high-quality connection, even in the most challenging environments with spotty coverage, by aggregating all the best available links—3G, LTE, 5G, SatCom, and proprietary RF links—into a bonded, secure, and reliable pipeline. Halo constantly monitors transmission, identifying and combining the best available links while prioritizing low-latency channels in real time. It faultlessly reroutes traffic to ensure flawless video streaming, telemetry, and command and control. 

Halo’s robust security measures include data encryption and splitting across multiple bonded IP links, effectively safeguarding the transmitted data from cyber warfare threats. In addition, the 3D reception coverage maps provided by Elsight facilitate meticulous flight planning, allowing operators to choose optimal routes with the strongest signal strength.

Designed for portability and rapid deployment, Halo is the ideal solution for fast-moving border security operations. Its compact size, low weight, and minimal power consumption make integrating into various drone platforms easy. 

Halo fully complies with the U.S. National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and European standards. With a proven track record of tens of thousands of successful BVLOS mission flight hours, Elsight’s Halo is a trusted partner in securing international borders. 


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