Reducing Illegal Border Crossing With Aerial Data Technology

Border control is essential for both national security and economic growth. Well-managed borders enable the legal transportation of goods critical to global economies and prevent the illegal entry of products and people.

While not always the case, illegal border crossings are often linked to criminal activities, such as the smuggling of firearms, narcotics, and other contraband and human trafficking. For instance, in December 2022, the United States experienced 221,000 illegal crossings at its border with Mexico. Although the number dropped significantly to 130,000 in January 2023, these colossal numbers are still a concern.

Of course, this problem isn’t unique to the United States. In 2022, the European Union detected approximately 330,000 illegal border crossings, a 64% increase from the previous year. Canada has also seen a spike in illegal crossing, as 2022 recorded 40,000 unlawful entries into the country—more than double the amount in 2019.

Let’s explore the challenges of combating illegal crossings and the new technologies making border control measures more effective.

How can drones help with border control?
Source: Shutterstock

How Does the Government Secure the Border?

To prevent unlawful entrance, smuggling, and other risks, governments employ sophisticated and multi-layered strategies to secure their borders.

Border Patrol

Border patrol is probably the most common and obvious way to reduce the likelihood of illegal border crossings. Patrol units use surveillance, leads, city patrols, aircraft sightings, transportation checks, and anti-smuggling investigations to identify illegal entries.

Control teams also utilize video monitors, night vision scopes, and electronic sensors in strategic locations. However, surveillance, lookouts, and sensors are easy to spot, and criminals or illegal entrants often look for “blind spot” areas to pass through.


To prevent criminal threats, security teams identify and develop a comprehensive understanding of transnational criminal operations. Customs and border protection units integrate actionable intelligence and enforcement capabilities into the planning, preparation, and execution of operations.

Coordination with Foreign Law Enforcement

Border control measures also require coordination with foreign law enforcement partners. International partners work together to gather and analyze information and intelligence to identify and intercept transnational criminal threats before they reach borders.

Current Challenges in Keeping the Border Secure

Border points aren’t just an entry point for people. Illegal goods such as narcotics, firearms, wildlife, zoonotic diseases, and agricultural pests also make their way across borders hidden in legal cargo through legal points of entry and sea ports. In addition, the illegal entry of unaccompanied minors can further complicate matters for authorities.

Monitoring remote and rugged territory on a country-wide scale is also highly challenging for border control authorities. However, smuggling doesn’t only happen through illegal border crossings on land. Criminals use tunnels, drones, small aircraft, and boats as well.

One major challenge for border control units is a lack of tech support. While border control units have high-tech equipment, the funds for upgrades—and the scale at which they’re required—often means the latest technologies are lacking or poorly implemented.

For example, drones aren’t new to border patrol agencies, but their implementation has been rocky. With latency in data delivery and poor dwell time on targets for active tracking, results don’t reflect the exorbitant operational costs.

Operations would be much more efficient with tools that increase mobility, transparency, and agility. Technology that allows non-intrusive inspection at ports of entry would enable agents to receive, evaluate, and assess information faster and more effectively. In addition, being able to access and process data faster lets authorities make timely decisions and take appropriate actions.

Source: Shutterstock

3 Technologies That Help Reduce Illegal Border Crossing

Border security and the prevention of criminal behavior, including smuggling and trafficking, rely heavily on technological advancements.

1. Aerial Data and Technologies

The latest drone technology offers incredible benefits for border control teams, such as better-than-ever data sourcing and patrol support tools. Highly autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) enable patrol units to monitor the entire border area more efficiently.

Open-API integration seamlessly makes UAV-sourced imagery part of everyday border patrol operations. For instance, a UAV can gather visual intel or monitor areas to provide a centralized command with real-time situational awareness during an active arrest encounter.

And because aerial technology extends beyond land-based borders, it also plays a critical role in coastal monitoring.

2. Cameras and Sensors

To monitor vast remote areas, border control units install sensors that measure vibrations, acoustic, or motion activity. But with outdated equipment, alerts can be vague. This means someone must be deployed to verify whether it’s an actionable event, an animal, or a faulty sensor.

Newer radar technology can detect and track multiple threats simultaneously and provide precise location, direction, and speed details. Imaging technology also gives crisp, long-range visual analysis of detected threats on both land and water. This helps operators discern between false or actionable alerts.

3. Data Analytics and Intelligence

Technologies from border control units amass a vast amount of data daily. While this data is essential, it’s only useful when translated into actionable information.

Data analytics tools translate various data sets into customizable reports, providing real-time insights into border control situations, trends, threats, and efficiency. They also enable border control agencies to closely monitor and better understand the migration flow, helping them identify bottlenecks and swiftly improve their strategies.

In addition, data analytics can help predict future influxes of migrants and attempted illegal border crossings. With data-based insights, border control units can prepare and strategize more effectively to combat unlawful entries.

Transform Border Control Success with SkyX

The mere scale of border control operations means misplaced efforts come at a substantial economic cost and lost opportunities. With the progressive integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and aerial systems, SkyX revolutionizes the way aerial data is obtained, analyzed, and acted upon.

SkyX UAVs source data by routinely and remotely monitoring expansive border segments. AI handles the analysis, refining the visuals into actionable data. Border units can then automate surveillance, streamlining the workload and leveraging key insights into meaningful action.

The SkyX aerial data platform also uses data gathered from regular patrols and incident reports to pinpoint common crossing locations and traffic seasonality. It can even forecast future traffic by comparing existing and previous data.

Book a demo with SkyX today and see how aerial surveillance and data can transform your border control operations and increase their success.

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