Customs and Border Protection’s new technology and acquisition office is focused on technologies and solutions to help with surveillance, detection and identification to meet a wide range of requirements, an agency official says.

The Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition is looking at solutions to help detect, identify and classify humans, vehicles such as all-terrain vehicles, cars and truck, low and slow flying aircraft such as ultra lights and small single engine planes, and marine craft such as Jet Skis, row boats and speed boats, Jim Riordan, executive director of the Program Management Office within the Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition, says at a Department of Homeland Security Industry Day last month.

“These are all mechanisms that are used to transport illegal drugs, people and other things across the borders,” Riordan says.

As for detecting people in vehicles, Riordan says CBP is looking for solutions that are covert and overt.

The new office was created over the summer to help the agency ensure that its acquisition plans and programs are lined up with CBP’s mission needs (TR2, Nov. 24).

Riordan says that in the coming months expect to see requirements issued for some of CBP’s needs. In particular, he mentions detection of low and slow flying aircraft, including ultra lights, tunnel detection, radars for the maritime environment to detect personal watercraft, row boats and speed boats across open water, and video downlinks from aircraft.

The agency is also interested in improving surveillance capabilities at some ports of entry, he adds.

Riordan also listed several “challenges” facing CBP, in particular the Border Patrol. One is difficulty in detecting humans in high foliage areas.

“It’s very easy for an individual to go undetected while walking through an area that’s got a lot of trees or a lot of brush,” he says.

Another challenges is detecting people in adverse weather conditions such as high winds, rain or snow, Riordan says.

Yet another challenge, one that CBP has been mentioning more frequently, is communications in remote areas of the country along both the northern and southern borders.

“There are a lot of remote areas that aren’t equipped with any type of communications infrastructure,” Riordan says. “So some types of mechanisms that can help move video, data, voice in those types of remote areas.”

Satellite communications are not an answer, he says, because they cost too much.

CBP is very interested in doing pilot projects with potential technology solutions, just buying one or two systems to “rapidly” try them out with operators in the field.

In the interest of keeping its costs down, CBP is interested in existing solutions, that can be purchased either commercial-off-the-shelf or government-off-the-shelf, Riordan says.

“A lot of times it will be asking for a solution that has already been put together, used, and shown to operate correctly,” Riordan says

CBP is also interested in solutions that feature open architecture, Riordan says.

“If you could pull one camera out and put the next generation in without having to reengineer the entire system, that’s the type of solution that we’re looking for,” he says (See TR2, Nov. 24).