DHS Technologists Continue Search for Tunnel Detection Technology

By Stew Magnuson

XThe Border Patrol in Yuma, Ariz., employed a unique method to locate the latest tunnel used to smuggle drugs and people underneath its fences. A water truck drove over it and caused the clandestine structure to collapse.

The discovery was happenstance, said Edward Turner, program manager of the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency.

“They thought it was just a sinkhole until they looked down into it and saw lumber,” he said at a border management conference.

Laboratories and agency’s such as HSARPA, the Department of Homeland Security’s organization dedicated to high-risk technology research, continue to seek scientific means to locate border tunnels. Technology, so far, has not detected any of the dozens of tunnels discovered over the years. Human intelligence or, in the Yuma case, sheer luck, have tipped authorities off.

Researchers acknowledge that there won’t be any technological silver bullets to discover tunnels. However, HSARPA is putting its money into an airborne gradiometer, which can measures slight anomalies in slopes or earth.

Whatever the solution will be, the technology must be easy to for the Border Patrol to use, Turner said. Most of the tunnel detection in use now “requires a PhD to operate,” he added.

Topics: C4ISR, Tunnel Detection

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