U.S. border authorities have awarded a $99.9-million contract to a New York-based company to develop a radar system to detect low-flying ultralight aircraft used to smuggle drugs from Mexico.
The solo-piloted aircraft that resemble motorized hang gliders are difficult to detect with conventional radar technology and can carry payloads up to 250 pounds.
The planes fly slowly above areas from San Diego to Arizona, dropping their loads of marijuana before escaping to Mexico. More than 700 incursions, at least two of which occurred over San Diego's Interstate 8, have been reported since the trend began in 2008.
The Department of Homeland Security awarded the contract last week to SRCTec, a defense contractor that specializes in advanced radar systems. It will build nine ultralight aircraft detection systems for about $7 million in the first phase of a deal that includes options to extend for 10 years, said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in an interview with the Syracuse Post-Standard. The systems are to be delivered in February, Schumer said.