DHS Develops ‘Black Boxes’ For Mass Transit Buses

By Eric Beidel
The Homeland Security Department’s Science and Technology Directorate is developing cameras that could serve as “black boxes” for mass transit.

The forensic cameras will include memory chips strong enough to withstand bombings, fires or floods, said Stephen Dennis, the directorate’s deputy director for innovation. Two companies — Videology Inc. of Grenville, R.I., and Visual Defence-USA Inc. of Alexandria, Va. — have delivered prototypes for testing.

Last year, the cameras held up well during a bombing exercise at the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. Researchers mounted 16 cameras on the walls of a retired public transit bus rigged with explosives. The bombs destroyed the bus but not the cameras, all of which survived despite being thrown in all directions. Fourteen of the camera’s memory chips made it through the blasts.

Preloaded videos in the cameras allowed engineers to compare the content and quality of images before and after the explosion. “Every video minute on there was without degradation,” Dennis noted.

The directorate next plans to study the reliability, performance and maintenance of cameras operating on regular bus routes and trains. The Transportation Security Administration and several major U.S. cities are interested in participating, DHS officials said.

The final phase of testing will examine how well the cameras will do in burning vehicles. To see if they can survive extreme heat, engineers literally will bake the cameras and their chips in an oven.               

Topics: Homeland Security, RailMass Transit

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