• AI used to limit collision-prone roadways

    Could a traffic agency identify a potentially dangerous road intersection without first witnessing a collision? Researchers are attempting to answer that question as they near completion on a two-year proof-of-concept study to develop an image-based system for monitoring and assessing the safety of intersections.

  • DHS’s airport biometric exit program faces budgetary, legal, technical, and privacy questions

    DHS has installed experimental face-recognition system in nine U.S. airports. If DHS’s current plans are executed, every traveler flying overseas, American and foreign national alike, will soon be subject to a face recognition scan as part of this “biometric exit” program. A new report notes that neither Congress nor DHS has ever justified the need for the program. Congress never provided a rationale for it. Congress never provided a rationale for it while DHS has repeatedly questioned “the additional value biometric air exit would provide.” The biometric exit program also stands on shaky legal ground, and to make matters worse, the face scanning technology used by DHS may make frequent mistakes. “The privacy concerns implicated by biometric exit are at least as troubling as the system’s legal and technical problems,” the report notes.

  • New simulator tool allows testing the explosive vulnerabilities of aircraft

    Each day, more than twenty-six thousand commercial flights transport passengers and cargo to destinations around the world. S&T’s Commercial Aircraft Vulnerability and Mitigation (CAVM) program supports testing and evaluation efforts to assess potential vulnerabilities and evaluate countermeasures that can mitigate the impact of explosives on commercial aircraft. Newer generations of commercial aircraft fuselages are being made with composite materials, such as carbon fiber reinforced plastic, so CAVM needs to develop a sustainable and representative testing solution in order to all evaluations of new composite aircraft structures to explosive-based threats could continue as needed.

  • Biometric solutions to bolster security at U.S. airports

    World events over the last decade—and even in the last year—have shown that airports are an attractive target to terrorists. At the same time, the number of international air travelers is increasing. More than 119 million international travelers arrived in fiscal year (FY) 2016, an almost six percent increase from FY 2015 and over a 35 percent increase since FY 2009. It is estimated that international arrivals will continue to grow at more than four percent annually. In this changing security landscape, finding effective and scalable solutions to increase security and efficiently process travelers is imperative. The need is critical and will only grow as many airports are already operating at or near capacity.

  • Homemade Explosive Characterization Program helps keep Americans safe

    Each day almost two million Americans travel on commercial aviation domestically and internationally, and in addition tens of millions use America’s mass transit systems. In recent months, several significant plots to take down commercial aircraft and attack public spaces have been thwarted due to the mitigation efforts of law enforcement and government counter terrorism agencies across the globe. The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) says it is at the forefront of the response to, and mitigation against, such plots against the homeland.

  • Chemical detection sensors at the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub

    In New York, a new magnificent architectural wonder in white, the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, also known as the Oculus, attracts tens of thousands of commuters and visitors every day. The Hub connects two subway systems and provides access to multiple buildings that make up the World Trade Center. However, even the most beautiful and useful places are not immune to danger from terrorist chemical attacks. DHS S&T entered into an agreement this spring with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to begin the design, establishment, operation, and maintenance of a chemical detection testbed for identifying hazardous gases.

  • Concerns about safety of rail transport of energy liquids, gases

    The U.S. increased production of crude oil, natural gas, and corn-based ethanol created unforeseen demands and safety challenges on their long-distance transportation via pipelines, tank barges, and railroad tank cars. A debate is underway about whether the domestic energy revolution was placing stress on the transportation system that would sacrifice safety.  

  • Detecting nuclear materials used in dirty bombs

    Radiological material falling into the wrong hands is a constant security concern for governments around the world. Border agencies must scan incoming vehicles and freight for radioactive material, which is a challenging task, as huge volumes of both move across borders each day. Imperial College London’s physicists have developed two devices for detecting nuclear materials.

  • Flights worldwide face increased risk of severe turbulence owing to climate change

    Flights all around the world could be encountering lots more turbulence in the future, according to the first ever global projections of in-flight bumpiness. A new study has calculated that climate change will significantly increase the amount of severe turbulence worldwide by 2050–2080. Severe turbulence involves forces stronger than gravity, and is strong enough to throw people and luggage around an aircraft cabin.

  • Averting disaster on railroad crossings

    The damsel in distress, tied up and left on the railroad tracks, is one of the oldest and most clichéd cinema tropes. This clichéd crime has connections to real, contemporary accidents that happen far more than they should. There are 200,000 crossings in the United States, and efforts to minimize the number of these crossings by creating overpasses, or elevating roadways are cost-prohibitive. Researchers found a better solution to reduce the number of accidents at railroad crossings: The Ghost Train Generator.

  • Soft target, hard problem: Keeping surface transportation secure

    Maintaining security on the U.S. surface transportation systems takes significant resources and manpower, both which tend to be in short supply. What if there were a way to detect potential threats in bags or on persons from the moment they entered the subway? What if there was a way to know the path individuals take as they move through the system, and to relay that information to transit police in real-time?

  • Cleaning up subways after release of biological warfare agent such as anthrax

    If you’re like most people, you don’t spend much time thinking about what would happen if anthrax was released into your local subway system. But Sandia Lab engineer Mark Tucker has spent much of the past twenty years thinking about incidents involving chemical or biological warfare agents, and the best ways to clean them up. Tucker’s current project focuses on cleaning up a subway system after the release of a biological warfare agent such as anthrax.

  • U.K. raises terror threat level after London terrorist attack

    British police is searching for those responsible for an IED explosion on a London subway train. Twenty-nine people were injured in the attack. Counterterrorism experts said the IED may have malfunctioned, thus averting a larger catastrophe. British prime minister Theresa May raised the country’s terror threat level to critical, meaning an attack is expected soon.

  • Saudi government funded a “dry run” for 9/11: Court documents

    The Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C. paid two Saudis to conduct a “dry run” of the 9/11 attacks, documents submitted by lawyers for plaintiffs in a terrorism case against the Saudi government show. The complaint stated that the Saudi government paid two nationals, posing as students in the United States, to take a flight from Phoenix to Washington in November 1999 in order to test out flight deck security. The two Saudi nationals, whose tickets were paid for by the Saudi embassy, took a flight from Phoenix to Washington, but their persistent questions of the crew about cockpit security, and their several attempts to enter the cockpit, led the pilots to make an emergency landing in Ohio, and the two Saudis were escorted off the plane by FBI agents. The two men were released after an initial interrogation by the FBI.

  • Getting past security without a plane ticket

    Starting Tuesday, 5 September, Pittsburgh International Airport has become the first U.S. airport to allow non-fliers regular access into its gate-side terminal areas since security measures changed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. The airport has won approval from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for non-ticketed customers to pass through security, though they will still have to go through the same screening as those catching flights. They will also be required to show ID so they can be vetted against no-fly lists.