High Tech “Invisible Wall” is the Latest Defense at U.S.-Mexico Border

Federal officials turned to cutting-edge technology to help them monitor the U.S.-Mexico southern border by creating an “invisible wall.” High-tech watchtowers, also known as Autonomous Surveillance Towers (ASTs), are now being placed at different locations along the 2,000 mile stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The ASTs use artificial intelligence and were powered by solar energy in detecting movements along the border. It automatically sends information in real-time to border agents watching the area. 

Federal Officials turned to artificial intelligence to handle the overwhelming number of migrants crossing the border

According to Joel Freeland, a Border Patrol agent, the ASTs were installed in remote locations which are hard to reach. They work 24/7 and are environmentally friendly since they completely rely on solar energy. 

The ASTs were first tested back in 2018 in the San Diego part of the border: they have since been used in the El Paso sector, one of the most active crossing locations for migrants. 

So far, in the fiscal year 2021, border agents working at this particular sector were able to apprehend 155,892 migrants. This number is almost triple the number of the 54,396 migrants apprehended in the fiscal year 2020. 

Freeland added that most of the recent apprehensions they had were in the sector where AST was installed. The most recent AST sits on a high remote spot where the borders of New Mexico, Texas, and the Mexican state of Chihuahua meet.

However, officials opted not to give the exact number of migrants apprehended with this newly installed AST, which was installed merely two weeks ago.  The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol likewise released a statement, noting that they plan to install at least 140 ASTs in order to create a “virtual wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The AST has a radar that can scan the environment and detect movements. Once a movement is detected, the radar directs the camera to the area where movements were identified; the camera then examines the images in order to autonomously recognize items of interest such as vehicles or people. 

The ASTs were designed by Palmer Luckey, a 28-year-old supporter of former President Trump, and the founder of Oculus Rift and Oculus VR. Luckey used Anduril Industries for marketing the towers which use a system of interconnected sensors and cameras.

The previous towers and cameras were used as a defense technology startup, founded back in 2017.

Border Patrol agents are grateful for the high-tech surveillance device

According to Border Patrol agents, they are grateful to Luckey for providing the technology. It assists thousands of agents working along the U.S.-Mexico border, as they look for illegal immigrants and smugglers who usually cross the border while taking advantage of the darkness of the night. 

Freeland noted that before ASTs were installed, Border Patrol agents could only monitor around a quarter of the border from their trucks; now, they are able to monitor everything. 

According to Luckey, he first designed the system when he was working in his parents’ garage during his late teens. Then, in March 2014, the company that he co-founded to build Oculus was sold to Facebook for $2 billion. 

Afterward, Luckey worked with Facebook. However, he left the big tech company after he received backlash for donating $10,000 to a group that supports Trump which produced anti-Hillary Clinton memes.