By Calvin Biesecker

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Transportation Security Laboratory (TSL) plans to solicit proposals for automatic target recognition (ATR) algorithms that could be applied to the whole body imaging systems that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is currently deploying, enhancing security and efficiency at the nation’s airports.

The TSL is planning a spiral-based research and development effort to improve upon the Advanced Imaging Technology systems to meet TSA requirements, hoping to exploit specific image features of known threats such as weapons, improvised explosive devices and homemade explosives to improve on the systems.

TSA is using the AIT systems to non-intrusively screen passengers at aviation checkpoints for weapons and explosives that may be hidden beneath their clothing. The agency has deployed 40 AIT systems from L-3 Communications [LLL] that use millimeter wave technology to scan a person. The agency is about to begin deploying 150 backscatter X-Ray-based AIT systems supplied by OSI Systems [OSIS], with the initial units slated for Boston’s Logan International Airport.

L-3 has already installed its own ATR technology on its ProVision AIT imaging systems that are deployed at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. Unlike the ProVisions operating in airports in the United States, which present a detailed image of an individual’s anatomy to a remote screener, the ATR-equipped systems at Schiphol present a stylized human figure that highlights any objects on a body, eliminating privacy concerns and the need for the remote screener. It also allows for a more directed hand search of a person if an object is highlighted on a person’s body.

The TSL, which is part of the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, will propose an open architecture design for the ATR system for integration into the AIT systems.

“The goal is to implement the ATR as part of TSL’s Integrated Checkpoint program, giving the AIT the capability for modularity, to accommodate any equipment configuration required for a given airport,” the lab says in a notice this week. “Additionally, the framework will accommodate growth of the algorithms for the detection of a wider range of threats as the ATR capability is developed.”

The TSL plans on a two-phase project. The first, lasting 12 months, will involve evaluation of technical reports and proposals, preliminary and critical design reviews, and test plans. Phase two will also last one year and will include further development of selected algorithms, a chance for vendors that had previously submitted algorithms to propose again for evaluation, and an assessment of ATR systems.

The TSL plans to issue a Broad Agency Announcement for the ATR algorithms projects around March 18.