Ultralight aircraft have become an emerging threat because they can overcome border fences and because they can take off and land almost anywhere, Fisher said.
“In many cases, the ultralight, when it makes entry into the United States, does not land. It’ll simply just kick out its cargo,” which is usually marijuana, Fisher told the House Oversight subcommittee on national security. The low-flying aircraft then returns to Mexico while traffickers on the ground in the United States retrieve the drugs.
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For ultralights that never land in the United States, it’s unclear what the Border Patrol can do to them while they’re airborne. Fisher said the agency is looking at how to adjust its policies to address ultralights, while still acting with “compassion within the Constitution.”
Despite the difficulty of apprehending them, the Border Patrol has worked to improve its ability to detect them, experimenting with ground-based radar, Fisher said, and tweaking it so it can identify the ultralights.
The agency has also worked with the Science and Technology Directorate within the Homeland Security Department on ways to detect the initial entry of ultralights into the country.