Tunnel Detection Task Force Speeds Sensors, Robots to Border

By Stew Magnuson
A federal task force organized to halt the construction of illegal tunnels being built underneath the U.S.-Mexico border has begun deploying ground sensors and robots in the Southwest.

With 129 tunnels detected under U.S. borders since 1990, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Northern Command, the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies formed the rapid reaction tunnel detection joint capability technology demonstration in 2010.

Its first task was to deploy a series of passive seismic sensors, which can detect movement underground at hotspots along the border. That happened within months of the organization’s formation, said Amy Clymer, operational manager of the program. Leadership doesn’t want to wait “three years” before deploying technology, she added.

We “want to get something in the field now — this year,” she said.

Next will be tethered robots sent into tunnels for mapping and situational awareness. They will be inserted through 8-inch-wide boreholes drilled down to underground cavities, she said. They come equipped with a suite of sensors, including electro-optical, infrared, and chemical-biological to detect weapons of mass destruction.

Mapping can reveal entrances that emerge on private property, thus allowing law enforcement agencies to obtain search warrants, she said.

An untethered robot that can independently move in tunnels is under development, she said.

Topics: Homeland Security, Border Security

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