Ultrasonic Detectors to Test Containers
Advanced technology to be used on inbound air / sea ''cans''
WASHINGTON, DC - 12/23/03 - The Homeland Security Department plans to deploy new technology at the nation's borders to inspect certain containers entering the US, according to the group that developed the detection device.
The Department's division on customs and border protection soon will test the technology at the nation's Northern and Southern borders, Aaron Diaz, a staff scientist with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, said during a recent press briefing on new technologies for national defense.
Battelle, a Virginia-based nonprofit research and development institute that hosted the event, manages the laboratory for the Energy Department.
Chip Block, vice president for the Mehl, Griffin & Bartek lobbying firm, said the company is waiting for the department to finish testing to win a contract for deploying the devices at ports and border entries.
The Department declined to confirm its plans and also declined to say when a final determination would be made on where and when the new technology would be implemented.
The hand-held, drill-shaped detection device uses an advanced, ultrasonic sensor system to detect suspicious liquids or solids in containers, Diaz said. It sends sound pulses from wall to wall of containers and within three to five seconds can alert officials via a tethered digital assistant of possible contraband or terrorist threats.
While the device has been on the market for only one year, it incorporates 60-year-old technologies, Diaz said, adding that earlier versions were employed during treaty verifications to identify chemical and nuclear weapons. And he said UN weapons inspectors used the latest version in Iraq before the war.
Block also said other federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service and Air Force, intend to use the devices. The patent-pending devices cost $20,000 each.
Diaz said the laboratory and customs officials have ongoing meetings on procuring the devices, but in the interim inspection officials are using sticks and flashlights for suspicious containers. He argued that the device would augment other technologies used by officials and would become a cost-benefit tool by reducing inspection efforts.
At Battelle's offices in Virginia, company officials also showcased a wireless device to diagnose the condition of munitions and missiles.
That technology, the company said, would assess and track exposure to excessive temperatures or shock to determine the military's asset readiness.
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