Photo: Border Patrol robots
“If we find a tunnel, we like to send a robot in to clear the tunnel and identify any threats, contraband, potential people with weapons, and let the agent know ahead of time if the tunnel is structurally sound,” the Border Patrol’s Kevin Hecht said during a media event.
The robots can also be used to prevent smugglers from converting water drainage pipes between Nogales, Mexico and Nogales, Arizona into tunnels through which they can bring drugs or immigrants into the United States.
The three robots have been tested in Nogales. Two of them will remain in the Border Patrol’s Tucson sector and one will be sent to San Diego, where last year authorities found a number of rather sophisticated tunnels.
Before receiving these new devices, agents had been working with a robot that functioned with a power cord which was extended depending on the length of the tunnel it was inspecting.
That robot cost $83,000 but the three new ones cost just $27,000 each, have greater mobility, do not use power cords and can move through terrain that the first robot found difficult to negotiate.
Since 1990, 168 tunnels have been found along the binational frontier, 103 of them in Arizona and the majority of those in Nogales, which in recent years has become the tunnel capital of the border zone.
Last week, the Border Patrol reported finding a new - but unfinished - tunnel in Nogales. It began in Mexico a few meters (yards) from the border fence and ended underneath a parking lot on the U.S. side.
“What they’re doing is starting to dig from the (Mexican) side until they get to a parking area, where they have a car waiting and they load it without being detected,” Border Patrol spokesman Andres Adame said.