DHS Awards Contracts to Improve Detection Capabilities for Aviation Security

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate have awarded a number of contracts related to improving the detection capabilities of current and next-generation screening technologies used for aviation security.

Under a $4 million TSA award, Analogic [ALOG] to develop an algorithm to meet the agency’s new Acceptable Property Screening Standard (APSS) for screening carry-on bags at passenger checkpoints. The award also includes several of the company’s new computed tomography (CT)-based ConneCT scanner for testing and data collection efforts.

Analogic is working with third party algorithm developers under the TSA contract, Mark Laustra, the company’s head of global business development, tells HSR in late October. The one-year development contract was awarded in September and announced by the company earlier this month.

TSA is currently evaluating CT-based systems from two companies for checkpoint screening at two airports. L3 Technologies [LLL] is supplying its ClearScan system for evaluations at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Integrated Defense & Security Solutions (IDSS) is supplying its DETECT 1000 for testing at Logan International Airport in Boston.

TSA will soon begin evaluating Analogic’s ConneCT system at an airport, with a start date not yet firm but likely early in 2018. The ConneCT will be the first CT-based system to be integrated into Automated Screening Lanes that TSA is also evaluating. The ASL lanes feature mechanized rollers, multiple divest stations, automated tray returns, and a divert capability for suspect bags to receive additional screening without having to delay screening of other bags, with the aim of improving security and speeding throughput.

The APSS standard broadens the number and type of threats that screening systems at the checkpoint must detect. L3 also confirmed that it received a similar size award as Analogic to work on algorithms to meet the APSS standard.

The CT-based technology is currently used to automatically screen checked bags for explosives. TSA hopes that the technology, when used at the checkpoint, will eventually allow passengers to leave electronic devices and liquids in their bags for automated screening of explosives, helping to speed traveler throughputs and increase security.

Separately, DHS S&T awarded four research and development projects worth nearly $7 million to three companies and a national laboratory to improve detection capabilities in the airport environment. Two of the awards were made to IDSS.

Under a $1.9 million contract, IDSS will use machine learning to develop an algorithm to automatically find hidden threats inside bags. S&T says that the goal is to automatically clear a bag without operator intervention.

S&T also says that the low-density nature of certain threats can overlap with typical items found in a bag, making it difficult for operators to find a potential threat.

IDSS will also develop a retrofit kit to improve throughput and detection performance of currently fielded CT-based explosive detection systems that screen checked bags under a $1.5 million contract, from S&T.

“By developing a common framework in which multiple existing systems use the same hardware and software implementations, IDSS hopes to enhance support for future upgrades to currently deployed systems,” S&T says. “This commonality also reduces the number of discrete components in the systems, improving reliability and ease of maintenance, which in turn reduces lifetime costs of the systems.”

S&T also says the kits may lead to detection and false alarm improvements.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories received a $1.8 million award from S&T to develop algorithms to improve automated threat recognition software in CT systems for checkpoint baggage scanning. S&T says that the lab’s solution will use data and images collected from X-Ray imaging system to help train several proposed threat recognition algorithms. It says the resulting algorithms will be incorporated in to a software upgrade for X-Ray system to help reduce false alarms  and speed passenger throughput.

S&T awarded TeleSecurity Sciences a $1.5 million contract to continue improvements of a vendor-neutral common automated threat recognition software for explosive detection systems. The agency says the work has the potential to improve ATR software on fielded systems and increase the probability of detection of prohibited items.

“The emergence of homemade explosives has placed many challenges on aviation security screening,” says William Bryan, acting undersecretary for S&T at DHS. “S&T is making important investments in technology that will be leveraged into the next generation of checked baggage screening equipment.”

The contracts were awarded under a Broad Agency Announcement issued in Dec. 2016.

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