IN the press conference held on Sunday, I listened with a sense of dismay and confusion to Chief of Defence Staff Air Vice Marshal Darryl Daniel as he seemed, in my respectful view, to throw his hands in the air in a sigh of capitulation with regard to the surveillance of our country’s coastline.

As I listened to him, I wondered, apart from the surveillance activities of the Coast Guard at sea, is the “fight” being extended to the air and land?

He did in fact mention that the Air Guard assists with coastal surveillance through the use of fixed wing aircraft and helicopters but I wondered if that was enough.

Now I admit I am an engineer and not a security expert. Consequently I will proceed with caution, to comment on this all-important issue in the form of questions as opposed to statements.

Question 1: Are surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles (aka UAVs or drones) being used to supplement Coast Guard patrols?

UAVs can provide a practical solution for routine surveillance of the country’s coastline. The linear field of view of a drone’s camera(s) is greatly amplified as a consequence of the altitude at which it operates. As a result, a single drone can “see” and therefore monitor a far greater swathe of coastline than a boat in the ocean can. Additionally, technologies such as real time kinematic positioning (RTK-GPS) allow drones to monitor the position and speed of vessels in the ocean, in real time.

This information can then be relayed to Coast Guard vessels “on the ground” to assist them in pinpointing the precise location of suspect vessels. Ultimately, the application of state-of-the art surveillance drone technology can allow the Coast Guard to optimise the assets and resources they currently have.

Question 2: Are countermeasures being deployed on land to intercept vehicles transporting illegal immigrants once they have landed?

Much has been said about the involvement of locals in the transport of illegal immigrants from their point of entry, to the interior of the country. The roadways or other pathways from these landing points to the wider country are not infinite. One could reasonably conceive of police/military check points located along transportation arteries from these landing points as an effective “net” to counter this illegal activity.

Additionally, the effective use of strategically placed closed circuit television cameras to monitor vehicular traffic into and out of these areas may provide another layer of countermeasures.

As a citizen, I think it would bring me some degree of comfort if the chief or his agents could comment on the questions posed above.

At present, there appears to be a sense in the general public that more could and should be done to protect our borders, especially at this time.

Maybe a word of assurance that the “fight” is actively being conducted in the air and on the land in addition to the sea, would go a long way to help suppress public anxiety and build confidence in our security forces.

Andre Burkett

St Augustine

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