SYRACUSE, N.Y., Aug. 18 (UPI) -- The Department of Homeland Security said it had awarded a defense contract to a New York firm to create a radar system for tracking ultralight airplanes.
The company, SRCTec, already makes radar systems. But the $99.9 million contract is for designing radar that can pick up solo-pilot planes that cross the U.S. border from Mexico and are used to make drug deliveries to crews waiting on the ground.
The drug smugglers used to land the ultralight planes and unload, but that system carried risks of arrest, forcing the smugglers to simply drop the payloads on the ground without landing, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.
With current radar systems, the small aircraft that fly slowly and low to the ground can be mistaken for trucks or be lost by the system, the newspaper said.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the contract could be extended to 10 years, but the first phase is to build nine radar systems in time for February delivery.