By Steve Neavling
Blimps hovering 10,000 feet above the U.S. border are helping combat drug smuggling operations.
Customs and Border Protection is using eight unmanned, unarmed blimps as eyes in the sky as part of the agency’s Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS).
“TARS is the most cost-efficient capability that we own,” Richard Booth, director of domain operations and integration for CBP’s Office of Air and Marine, says on CBP’s website . “TARS is like a low-flying satellite system, but cheaper to launch and operate.”
The blimps “fly like kites in the wind,” said Rob Brown, CBP program manager for TARS.
“Raising radar and other sensors to high altitude boosts surveillance range, and the physical sight of an aerostat is a visual deterrent to illegal activity in the air and on the ground,” Brown said.
Drug smugglers often fly low to avoid ground-based radar, but they can’t evade the blimps’ radar.