Drone patrols for South African borders?

The South African government may have started the process of incorporating surveillance drones to patrol its borders.

The issue has come to light after state-owned telecommunication signal distribution company Sentech flighted a tender on Wednesday, August 26, calling for applications for “Service Providers onto a Panel (for the) Supply, Support and Managed Services of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Autonomous Drone Solution) to Sentech SOC (Ltd) for three years with the option to renew for an additional two years.”

Primarily, Sentech provides electronic communications network services to the South Africa’s broadcasting and communications industry, providing broadcast transmission services to the likes of public broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s (SABC) radio and television stations, commercial radio and TV stations, and over 150 Community radio stations country-wide on a daily basis. They also provide connectivity and infrastructure services to the retail, telecommunications and the public sector.

There was more information on why the Sentech are looking for drones on the tender data.

“Sentech aim to acquire intelligent Semi/Fully Autonomous Drone Solutions, for use cases in assisting drone technology in border management, border patrols and surveillance,” the document says.

“This will enable relevant stakeholders to protect our country against trafficking in goods and people, terrorist-related threats, transnational crime, non-legitimate asylum seekers, and illegal immigration. Potential bidders are encouraged to suggest more information to augment the solution. Sentech reserves the right to vary the scope and terms as indicated with different use cases by changing the payload.”

Sentech is looking for drone technology that will be able to work like this

Additionally, the company is looking for drones that are fit for multiple missions, have a capacity to change payloads, can detect objects in high resolution imagery and be able to pinpoint their precise location.

Drones are currently being used to patrol European borders along the Mediterranean Sea, on the lookout for drug and human traffickers, and also to prevent mainly North African citizens fleeing war and hunger to enter into Europe illegally.

South Africa has had its fair share of problems along its borders, with smuggling and illegal crossing, especially along the Limpopo River on the country’s northern borders.

Proper surveillance drones with high-tech software like facial and object recognition have the capacity to survey vast swathes areas at all times of the day, which has led to privacy infringements concerns in countries like the USA. For instance, the perpetual state of surveillance along the US-Mexico border ostensibly to stop South American immigrants from crossing illegally into the USA in search of a better life, is reported to include the collection of information of US citizens living along the border, who are not comfortable with the cameras of aerial vehicles constantly staying strained on their properties.

The drone patrols have also increased deaths along the US border, as immigrants look for more treacherous routes to evade the smart detection.

Main Picture: US Border Patrol drone, courtesy of The Verge


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