Border Patrol Tests Tunnel Robots

January 14, 2014
Michel Marizco
The U.S. Border Patrol testing a SWAT remote recon unit as a tunnel inspector in Nogales, Ariz.

NOGALES, Ariz. — The United States Border Patrol is testing a remote-controlled robot that can identify illicit tunnels beneath the Mexican border.

The tunnel robots identify breaches in the elaborate system of sewage tunnels that run beneath the U.S.-Mexico border here. Border Patrol Agent Kevin Hecht works inside these tunnels.

“Any time we can use a robot instead of a person, that’s a plus for us. I’d rather send a robot down a narrow confined space than have an agent crawl through muck and dirt and contaminated water, contaminated fluids," Hecht said.

Along the length of the border, agents have discovered about 170 tunnels in the past 25 years and more than half of those in Nogales.

Tunnel robots were being tested at the Border Security Expo in Phoenix last year. They were initially built to act as reconnaissance robots for SWAT units.

The robots in Nogales are equipped with cameras that show the operator above ground what’s happening underneath.