Site of new radar in Carlsbad
  • Site of new radar in Carlsbad
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Motorists in the South Carlsbad area, driving along the coast highway (Carlsbad Blvd.), may have wondered what’s up with the new 12-foot rotating blade at the south end of the South Carlsbad State Beach campground. The new radar technology may have finally caught up with sea-level bad guys.

Since 2007, when the San Ysidro area border became completely sealed from the ocean to five miles east, traffickers needed to find other ways to sneak their human and drug cargo into the U.S. One of the ways was to go offshore.

Less populated than the San Diego or Orange County shoreline, the North County coastline has become the pre-dawn landing beach of choice of smugglers operating stolen Mexican fishing boats. Known as pangas, the number of boats found unattended, stranded, or caught coming ashore has risen dramatically in the past several years.

A few years ago, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents scoured coastal area businesses that had a clear view of the ocean in Cardiff-by-the-Sea and Del Mar, posting flyers that encouraged citizens to report suspicious activity. The beach landings have continued to increase, roughly one every few weeks.

The boats, traveling north, will sometimes go as far out as 25 miles offshore in an attempt to evade Coast Guard detection. The boats are perfect for fishing in Baja, but not for the open ocean. When a panga — which tends to have a small outboard engine — becomes stranded, the smugglers usually abandon their cargo. People sometimes float around for days until they’re found by passing ships.

CBP, an agency within Homeland Security, placed the radar installation in the campground. It became operational — as in started spinning around and attracting motorists' attention — in late August. It is designed to use newer technology to cast a 15-mile-radius radar shadow from the point of La Jolla, north to Camp Pendleton. Radar images are monitored by Homeland Security personnel stationed at a facility in the Inland Empire.

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CaptainObvious Sept. 24, 2013 @ 7:59 p.m.

Is this thing radiating 360 degrees, or masked to protect the people on land from the microwaves?


David Dodd Sept. 24, 2013 @ 8:18 p.m.

RADAR uses radio waves, not microwaves.


edprice Sept. 25, 2013 @ 12:51 a.m.

Oops Dave, please remove your foot from your mouth. Radar uses electromagnetic waves, commonly called radio waves. Radar uses very high frequencies, with short wavelengths, because its easier to focus the energy and short wavelengths are needed for better resolution. And very short wavelengths are called microwaves.


David Dodd Sept. 26, 2013 @ 4:28 a.m.

I'm giving a broad and short explanation here, ed. I realize that early RADAR technology led to the modern microwave in which we currently heat up our frozen enchiladas, but you summed it up below just fine. My point is that the RADAR used in this exercise isn't going to fry up any brain cells, the applications are far removed from that sort of thing. RADAR doesn't use microwave technology, but that it's the other way around. Microwave technology came about as a result of RADAR.


edprice Sept. 25, 2013 @ 1:01 a.m.

A valid concern. The beam is very directional, and the transmitter should include a "mask" that prevents emissions during the portion of rotation when the intended beam is not sweeping the ocean. OTOH, the beam is not as sharp as a laser beam, so there is some energy radiating off in useless directions. OTOH, you don't need a lot of power to see only 20 miles or so (the limit is related to the height of the antenna and the curvature of the Earth). Also, the duty cycle of a radar is very low, so that limits RF exposure too. Bottom line is that it's reasonably safe; you can't cook a hot dog even if you strapped it to the front of the antenna. Your health is much more affected by the nasty sunshine pouring down from that fusion reactor in the sky.


Ken Harrison Sept. 25, 2013 @ 5:29 a.m.

Wow, you guys are so bright your mom's call you son. Thanks for the info I never knew.


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