For months now, politicians have debated how best to address security concerns on America’s southern border. The president has championed a physical barrier or wall that would span the majority of that border and impede the flow of people looking to cross into the United States illegally. Many on the other side of the aisle contend that border security could be better accomplished without investing billions in a barrier, instead focusing on a laundry list of different methods and technologies to curb the flow of people illegally entering the country.
As is so often the case in politics, both sides may have some valid points. A physical barrier, while not impenetrable, would certainly offer a greater level of deterrence than open desert, but it’s hard to dismiss concerns about tunneling under, climbing over, or otherwise circumventing such an obstacle. Even with President Trump’s proposed boost in funding for Border Patrol officers, there is still too much territory to easily patrol and police.
Anyone who’s been on a cattle ranch knows that maintaining the fence line is among the most time-consuming parts of the job. Dozens of miles of intact fence don’t amount to much if one area becomes compromised, so ranchers have to regularly patrol the perimeter of their fences to ensure they’re intact and to prevent cattle from getting out (or predators from getting in). Given the more than 2,000 miles of border stretching between Mexico and the United States, those same perimeter checks have become an incredibly daunting task. Areas that are difficult to access or a lower priority could quickly become compromised without regular observation.
That’s where the same sort of technology currently employed to monitor oil pipelines could change the game. The stakes when it comes to oil pipeline regulatory compliance and physical integrity are extremely high: An issue with a pipeline could cost a company millions (or more) in lost revenue and federal fines, not to mention concerns about the environmental impact of an oil spill. But, like the border, these pipelines can span distances that are simply too vast for continuous manned observation.