A Wall Of Drones

Donald Trump wants to build a wall along the full 2,000 miles of our southern border with Mexico, because he promised he would. Trump also promised Mexico would pay for it, but he doesn't say that anymore. What is currently planned is actually more of a fence, but "wall" is a much stronger word, so Trump uses that instead.
Plan A for the wall called for it to be 30 feet high and extend six feet underground, made of solid concrete. That's not gonna happen. Plan B is a fence at least 18 feet high that can't be cut with common tools, but no requirement for underground security. The price of doing such an unlikely thing is quite clear – $25 billion is today's estimate, plus whatever costs come later for regular maintenance.
There's one major complication. Much of the Texas-Mexico border is actually the Rio Grande River, which wanders through a wide desert valley in different places at different times. We'll need to acquire a lot of private land on our side of the border to build anything along the 500 miles of that stretch – but the Feds are still dealing with 90 lawsuits from 2008 over the use of eminent domain in order to buy Texas land cheaply and erect a simpler fence.
And then there's the perverse nature of humanity. To some, an unguarded fence is not so much an obstacle but more of a challenge to overcome, a puzzle to resolve.
So forget about building a wall or even a fence, because Mexico simply won't pay for it. No deal, amigo. Congress won't even pretend to find the money to turn Trump's idea into an actual project. And that's fine, because who needs a barrier at the border? 
That's seriously old-school thinking. We need to look to the future, not back into history for the solution. If we want to secure our southern border, we need a Wall of Drones.
Let's put some eyes on the border. Remote controlled, battery powered drones with four cameras - two hi-definition cameras for daytime and two heat-sensitive cameras to watch for things moving around in the night.
It'll take about 2,000 drones in the air at all times to cover the full span of the border, so with a backup for each unit we'll need 4,000 expensive little hi-tech fliers. Human operators will be at the heart of our border monitoring system, so we'll need a workforce of some 5,000 trained drone pilots. Another 5,000 or more supervisors and support staff will also join the government payroll. They'll work from new, hi-tech buildings in small towns spread all across the Southwest.
The Border Patrol will need more agents stationed at command posts spread along the border with all-weather roads connecting them. When a drone pilot reports a breach of the border, agents can be dispatched from a nearby post to intercept them under the guidance of that same pilot.
So it will cost a whole lot of money to build a Wall of Drones, perhaps even as much as Trump's Fence. But it will provide a regional economic boost and actually secure the border. Trump's Fence simply won't do either of those things.


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