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Short Standoff Checkpoint Detection System for Explosives


Checkpoint security incorporates a wide variety of screening technologies and processes to detect person-borne threats and illicit objects, including weapons and explosives. Individuals attempting to circumvent checkpoint security have resorted to a variety of techniques to avoid detection, including hiding threat or illicit objects, but minute quantities of trace explosives may remain on their person or baggage.

Techniques for the non-contact trace detection of explosive particles on a person’s body, clothing or baggage are being sought for deployment at security checkpoints. The development of novel methods for this short standoff (<1 m) detection without the collection of explosive particles or vapors is encouraged.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screens passengers and their carry-on baggage at airport checkpoints prior to departure gate access. Checked baggage and 100 percent of air cargo carried on passenger aircraft are also screened for explosives. U.S. airlines set an annual record by carrying 769.4 million scheduled domestic and international passengers on their systems in 2007. A TSA checkpoint screens about 200 passengers per hour. TSA is deploying millimeter wave and backscatter x-ray Advanced Imaging Technologies (AITs) to enable Transportation Security Officers to detect non-metallic anomalies located under clothing. In order to minimize potential footprint and throughput impact of a short standoff explosives particle detector system, it is envisioned that it would be integrated into the AIT system and would operate concurrently with the AIT – requiring no more than 20 seconds to scan a full body or piece of baggage, analyze, and alarm on any surface explosive particles. The system must be eye-safe for both operator and subject.

Emerging technologies in the area of optical (vibrational, rotational, and electronic) spectroscopy offer the potential for a new type of non-contact trace detection system for explosive particles that could be readily integrated into an aviation security passenger checkpoint. While proven technologies such as Reflectance Infrared Spectroscopy and Raman Spectroscopy may provide the desired capabilities, other innovative approaches will also be considered for a short standoff checkpoint explosives detection system.

Such a capability would be of interest to various DHS components and other security forces.

PHASE I: Design a non-contact trace detection system for explosive particles on a person’s body, clothing or baggage and construct “breadboard” components as necessary to characterize potential system performance. Describe the minimum detectable trace residue (particle or vapor) at a range of 50 cm against a user defined set of military, commercial and homemade explosives (e.g., C4, TNT, NG, TATP, RDX, and PETN). Evaluate the effect of different surfaces and the environment on the ability to detect distinct signatures. Deliver a detailed report on the design, including acquisition and operating costs for a short standoff explosives detection system capable of being integrated into an AIT system.

PHASE II: Fabricate and demonstrate a prototype of the Phase I short standoff checkpoint explosives detection system for sensitivity and selectivity. Verification and validation in the prototype demonstration shall be achieved through empirical analysis, simulations, and/or other quantitative means. This analysis shall include, but not to be limited to: the probability of detection and false detection rate (characterized by a Receiver Operating Characteristic or ROC curve) for a user defined set of military, commercial and homemade explosives in an operational environment. Deliver a detailed report of this effort and its results.

PHASE III: COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS: Incorporate lessons learned in Phase II and develop a mature short standoff checkpoint explosives detection system for independent evaluation. Adoption of this short standoff checkpoint explosives detection system will depend upon performance and cost. Checkpoint screening is ubiquitous, and the potential market for a robust system is considerably greater than that offered by DHS components.

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