Maryland State Police to gather critical infrastructure data from air

Published 1 November 2007

Johns Hopkins’s APL develops new technology which allows officers to monitor critical infrastructure facilities digitally from the air and quickly locate, inspect important structures during patrols

Maryland State Police helicopters have a new tool in the cockpit designed to help flight crews keep watch over critical infrastructure facilities — dams, bridges, power plants, and other important installations across the state. They are tablet computers, linked to navigation satellites, digital maps, and lists and photos of critical infrastructure sites. The computers are allowing State Police quickly to locate and inspect important structures during regular patrols or as they’re returning to their base from other missions. Baltimore Sun’s Frank Roylance writes that the computers can also relay questions for the fliers to answer while they are over the structures and, after they land, download the information they have gathered to state agencies and, eventually, to federal homeland security analysts.

Called the Critical Infrastructure Inspection Management System (CIIMS), the technology was developed by the State Police in cooperation with the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) near Laurel. “Protecting Maryland from foreign or domestic terrorism is an integral part of the mission of the Maryland State Police,” State Police Superintendent Col. Terrence Sheridan said the other day as the technology was unveiled at Martin State Airport. “We’re proud to be the first agency in the United States to use this technology. We won’t be the last.”

Funded by DHS, the CIIMS system grew out of an ongoing program at APL to evaluate a new air traffic control technology, which will eventually replace the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) ground-based radar system. Maryland State Police Aviation Command personnel attending an APL presentation on the new FAA system several years ago saw its potential for improving the efficiency of their critical infrastructure patrols. Instead of juggling lists of sites, photos, and maps, the CIIMS computers can hold all that data and more. They provide crews with a simple, systematic platform for navigating to important sites, conducting aerial inspections, gathering requested intelligence and forwarding data to analysts on the ground. APL officials say they will continue to work with the State Police to improve the system as flight crews gain more experience with it. They also hope it will be expanded to other jurisdictions.

It’ll keep going and broadening. We’d like it to become a national model,” said Richard Waddell Jr., APL’s program manager on the project.