Newswise — The terrain alongside our northern border with Canada is huge and distinctive, and contains a various array of geographical landscapes together with the grasslands, prairies, and lowland plains of North Dakota and the mountains and badlands of Montana.

Safeguarding and securing the northern border towards threats and unlawful actions, corresponding to human trafficking and smuggling of illicit medicine, presents distinctive challenges as a result of of its numerous distinct landscapes and a number of factors of entry into the nation. Protecting such a large stretch of terrain—and the airspace above it—is crucial to our homeland safety and a high precedence for these sworn to maintain our borders safe. 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and its National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) have been working with a coalition of companions (together with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, and trade) for greater than a yr on Air Domain Awareness (ADA) efforts, culminating with a collection of know-how demonstrations that kicked off in April 2021.

Hosted at choose websites close to the border, the assessments and know-how demonstrations are designed to guage cutting-edge radar programs, cameras (each infrared and electro-optical), radio frequency detection programs, and acoustic gadgets to find out how successfully every can monitor, safeguard, and safe our northern border and its surrounding terrains and airspace.

The first occasion happened over three weeks this spring at Camp Grafton in North Dakota. The photographs beneath provide an unique have a look at the assessments, the applied sciences, and the terrain in this stunning slice of our northern border.

S&T and its companions spent lengthy days conducting over 100 flights and know-how assessments over the course of the testing. Held at random occasions of the day and night time in totally different climate and environmental situations, these assessments allowed them to guage whether or not the specialised programs may rapidly and precisely detect, observe, and establish numerous varieties of low, slow-flying plane—each manned and unmanned.

“We’ve been able to team with FAA, DOD, and other partners to test, evaluate, and implement state-of-the-art air domain awareness technologies to increase our security and ensure our safety,” stated S&T Technical Lead Tim Bennett. “This whole-of-government effort helps us accelerate getting products out in the field and saves dollars because we’re doing it as a team.”

North Dakota’s huge panorama and airspace make it prone to drug smuggling by way of manned and unmanned plane. S&T examined numerous radar programs to gauge their effectiveness at early detection and monitoring of each manned and unmanned plane flying close to the border. 

“I think we had some sensors out there that did a pretty good job,” stated NUSTL engineer Teddy Damour. “We’ll keep at it and continue to put the systems through some rigorous operational scenarios.”

The aerial surveillance applied sciences that DHS finally employs at the northern border will want to have the ability to detect every part that travels by means of this airspace. The rigorous testing carried out at Camp Grafton will assist S&T to find out which of these instruments might be appropriate for stopping and responding to unlawful actions at these essential points-of-entry into the nation. 

When it involves real-life surveillance operations, UAS can be utilized by each federal brokers and dangerous actors to assemble photographic and topographical information and relay this priceless info to pilots and operators on the floor. S&T evaluated the potential use of UAS as a vital instrument for securing and defending the plains areas from drug runners or human traffickers that traverse these areas by foot to cross into the U.S.

While the Camp Grafton ADA demonstrations are over, there’s nonetheless far more work to do. The information collected and analyzed from these assessments will present a baseline of details about the chosen instruments and their capabilities and limitations relating to detecting aircrafts in the subject. The information will quickly be used to tell the upcoming ADA demonstrations in Limestone Hills, Montana (mountainous terrain), the place the advanced topographies and landscapes will pose considerably better challenges for these surveillance programs and the operators utilizing them.

Upon completion, S&T will share detailed check studies with federal companies, organizations, and stakeholders seeking to procure and implement ADA applied sciences at the northern border and different key factors of entry round the nation.

“With the testing and results from Camp Grafton, we now have a great baseline to compare the systems in more difficult environments and terrains like the mountains of Montana,” defined Bennett.

For media requests associated to S&T’s Air Domain Awareness work, please contact [email protected].


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