The US government has confirmed deploying a new Northrop Grumman radar on unmanned aircraft systems to detect illegal immigrants and drug smugglers on the southwest border.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) operators have operated the vehicle and dismount exploitation radar (VADER) on the agency's General Atomics Aeronautical Systems' MQ-9 Reapers stationed along the border between Mexico and four US states.
Northrop designed VADER to detect people moving on the ground. Most radars, such as the APY-7 onboard the Northrop E-8C joint surveillance and target attack radar system (JSTARS) are designed to detect and identify stationary and moving objects, such vehicles and buildings.
A CBP official confirms the agency is pleased with the radar's performance in operations so far. VADER is able to distinguish between people and animals, the agency said.
The same radar also has been deployed to Afghanistan to hunt for Taliban forces. It is also operated from the MQ-9, but could also be deployed on the army's Northrop long-endurance multi-intelligence (LEMV) vehicle next year.
Unlike electro-optical and infrared surveillance cameras, radars can see through dust storms and atmospheric haze.