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Hero To Help Border Control


Farnborough, UK – Hero, a semi autonomous ground vehicle developed by BAE Systems, has been on an extensive trial with the UK Border Agency as it ramps up operations to keep illegal immigrants out of the country.

The trials, aimed to develop tactics and techniques for potential use by the UK Border Agency, to reduce the manpower intensive and physically demanding tasks of searching the undersides of vehicles.

Born out of a concept to help protect British troops on foot patrol in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hero is roughly the size of a briefcase with a wheel at each corner. Equipped with lights and cameras the vehicle has successfully been checking beneath lorries, coaches and trailers arriving at Calais – Europe’s busiest port – en route to the UK.

Immediately prior to the trials, BAE Systems worked alongside the UK Border Agency to better understand how Hero could help deal with this major issue. The Company rapidly incorporated a number of modifications to the vehicle to suit the UK Border Agency’s operations. Hero was then put through its paces searching for illegal immigrants, alongside officers in the examination area and creeping beneath the lines of trucks which were waiting to board ferries.

Up to 10,000 heavy goods vehicles a week pass through Calais on routes which attract many immigrants, heading illegally for the UK. “ Some people will use any means to get past immigration checks, and catching them can be extremely hazardous, states Richard Williams, civil autonomous systems director at BAE Systems. “It’s a backbreaking, dirty and often dangerous job to look under every truck and with 10,000 of these vehicles each week boarding ferries, it is physically impossible UK Border Agency staff to personally check them all.”

Searching for illegal immigrants is a significant element of border control work that is both physically demanding and manpower intensive. The UK Border Agency has recognised this and is looking at new ways of working – including innovative technologies which can be used to fight illegal activity. The trials have proved it’s the capabilities and potential of autonomous and semi autonomous technologies which can free-up personnel from dirty and dangerous activities.

BAE Systems has high hopes for the potential of such systems in the civil market. “Our work with the Border Agency is just one example of BAE Systems delivering real advantage to its customers, through exploring the potential for innovative new technologies to meet the defence and security needs of today and tomorrow, “adds Williams.

The UK’s Defence Industrial Strategy, published in December 2005, acknowledges that the threat from international terrorism to the security and economic interests of the UK, its partners and allies will, for the foreseeable future, derive from individuals and networks.

BAE Systems is harnessing its company-wide expertise in autonomous systems as part of a sharply focused strategy to become a major player in what is poised to become a multi-million dollar international market.


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