Border Patrol Aerial Vehicle Charts Red River Floods

The system provided streaming video and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) mapping, and change analysis of areas affected by the flood, such as levee integrity and ice damming.
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An unmanned aircraft recently deployed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has helped with the emergency flood response around the Red River, between North Dakota and Minnesota, logging more than 30 hours of flight time mapping the flood waters.

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The three flights were in support of North Dakota and Minnesota emergency managers and FEMA at the request of the State of North Dakota.

The remotely piloted Predator B UAS mapped over 3,200 miles along the flooded tributaries and basins in Minnesota and North Dakota. This includes the mapping of more than 180 miles in the Red River Valley of Eastern North Dakota through the Missouri River Basin in Western North Dakota.

Just a few weeks before the flood, a CBP spokesman told Governement Video that in addition to border protection, the aircraft, first deployed out to Grand Forks (N.D.) Air Force Base in December, could help in times of natural disaster like flooding.

Sure enough, the system—the aircraft, along with a control center at the Grand Forks facility—provided streaming video and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) mapping, and change analysis of areas affected by the flood, such as levee integrity and ice damming.

It also provided streaming video for real-time situational awareness to federal, state and local agencies working at the North Dakota and Minnesota emergency operations centers.

“The UAS mapping mission’s captures real time imagery which has been extremely helpful for all agencies involved in this flood,” said Michael P. Corcoran, Director of Air Operations, CBP UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) Operations Center—North Dakota. “We SAR-mapped most of the Red River Valley, including more than 600 points of interest, to include the critical infrastructure, flood impacted areas and monitoring the health of the levee and dike systems.”

An example of this important and helpful imagery is of the gigantic ice dams located at the bridge located at Oslo, N.D. The very detailed imagery data is utilized to map these flooded areas and has proven to be a great asset in monitoring the flood conditions.

This is the second time FEMA has asked for UAS support from CBP. CBP also provided UAS support during the 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season. During that time, CBP A&M conducted multiple UAS missions in support of FEMA as Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, and Tropical Storm Hannah, hit the Gulf and Southeast Coast of the United States. CBP UAS flew more than 75 hours, conducted surveillance of more than 250 miles of coastline, and took images of 167 natural and man-made structures at the request of FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Predator B UAS is capable of flying at 240 knots for 18 hours at an altitude of up to 50,000 feet.


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In addition to advanced Raytheon electro-optical sensors, the Predator brandishes synthetic aperture radar, helpful in documenting changes due to floods or hurricanes—or even the changes in the earth made by vehicle tires.

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