Magazine article National Defense

From a Distance

Magazine article National Defense

From a Distance

Article excerpt

Defense, law-enforcement agencies seek advanced surveillance tools

Suicide bombers, improvised explosive devices and the threats of chemical or biological weapons are creating increased demand for cutting edge technologies that can detect or survey potential hazards from stand-off distances.

Every year, the multi-agency Technical Support Working Group disperses seed money for companies large and small that can solve some of the nation's most pressing and challenging security issues. Researchers, engineers and company representatives packed an auditorium at die Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center for the agency's annual industry day.

While none of die working groups officials said it directly, the ability to detect dangers from stand-off distances emerged as a major need this year.

Up for grabs is anywhere from $80 million to $100 million for firms, universities or even lone inventors working out of their garages to get projects off the ground.

Securing these funds is not easy, though. TSWG's shopping list contains many items diat simply don't yet exist and can keep even the most talented engineers awake at night pondering possible solutions.

Take for example, die portable shoulder-fired missile detection systern. The Defense and Homeland security Departments would like the ability to detect a man-portable air defense system missile within a five-kilometer perimeter before it is launched. TSWG wants to know if diey can be detected when a potential adversary first flips the switch and activates die electronics.

And if that weren't hard enough, TSWG wants die system to give aircraft pilots enough time to take evasive maneuvers. The sensor must be concealable so adversaries don't know it's diere. It must be small enough to be picked up and moved to odier locations. And in cases where it must be left behind, it needs ami-tampering and self-destruct features. …

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