Cutting-edge surveillance system strapped to Nogales blimp

Cutting-edge surveillance system strapped to Nogales blimp

CREATED Mar 6, 2012

Reporter: Claire Doan

NOGALES, Ariz (KGUN9-TV) – A white, blinking object floating in the sky has a lot of people in Nogales curious. They first spotted the blimp Monday, tethered to the Border Patrol station off La Quinta road. 

“I saw a balloon – a white balloon actually. It was at night so it was blinking,” said Omar Quintero.

“I got a couple of inquiries about it and I was curious about it myself so I started checking up on it,” said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada.

It turns out the aerostat isn’t what’s unusual, but rather the equipment strapped to it: cutting edge surveillance technology. U.S. Customs and Border Protection will only say they’re determining whether if it’s useful in securing the border – and that it will be up for about a week.

“Border Patrol operators, along with supervisory Border Patrol agents, will test the technology and its ability to identify risks and threats occurring along the border,” CBP spokesman Jason Rheinfrank.

Estrada believes the aerostat could be a powerful weapon in the fight against drugs and human trafficking.

“Anything that they can place up in the air that will detect any movement along the border is going to be helpful. They can’t be everywhere. This is remote terrain, difficult to patrol and access,” he said.

Logos Technologies came up with the system, dubbed the Kestrel, which boasts night vision and gives a 360-degree surveillance of areas as wide as a few kilometers. The cameras can zoom in on any suspicious activity, recording up to 30 days worth of video.

However, not all Nogales residents welcome the system. “I think they interfere with our privacy. We have no privacy at the border, just because we live here. And we are U.S. citizens,” said Laura Monique.

As to whether it can be shot down, 9 On Your Side was told the blimp – once station properly – is very high and can survive a few bullets. The U.S. Army is already using the Kestrel in Afghanistan.