The Homeland Security Department wants to purchase technology that can detect slow-moving, low-flying aircraft — typically called ultralights — that Mexican cartels use to smuggle drugs into the United States, according to a draft request for proposals released last week.
The system will be used to detect ultralights, which are small one-person planes that are typically not much more than a hang glider equipped with an engine. Drug smugglers have been relying more on the small aircraft, which can easily avoid radar detection, to move illegal drugs into the United States.
In May, two Air Force fighter jets intercepted an ultralight that crossed into Arizona, then turned and flew back into Mexico after 30 minutes of being shadowed. In March 2009, law enforcement authorities in San Luis, Ariz., found an ultralight that crashed in a lettuce field. Still strapped into the aircraft was the body of the pilot and more than 100 pounds of marijuana, according to a USA Today article.