TSA Testing Millimeter Wave Cameras at Staten Island Ferry

Cameras check passengers as they pass through turnstiles

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) this month began

screening passengers for explosives using passive millimeter wave cameras at the

St. George Terminal of the Staten Island Ferry in New York City, marking the

third pilot test since 2004 of different explosives detection technologies at

several of the nation's ferry systems.

TSA is using three SPO-20 passive millimeter wave systems supplied by

Britain's QinetiQ to screen passengers as they pass through the turnstiles

before boarding during off-peak hours on weekdays over the next three weeks. Two

cameras, spaced about eight feet apart, are being used independently of each

other at the same time while the third system is on standby.

Each camera is mounted on a tripod and has pan-and-tilt features and is

supposed to be able to screen about 300 persons per hour. QinetiQ says the SPO-

20 has a detection range in the tens of meters. In the Staten Island Ferry

pilot, which is called Security Enhancement and Capabilities Augmentation

Program, the passengers keep on moving as they are being screened and the video

is viewed by Transportation Security Officers (TSO) from remote consoles set up

in a waiting area.

The consoles automatically alert to something potentially dangerous on a

person, even providing operators the location on an individual's body that needs

to be checked. Additional TSO who are roving around the terminal will be pulling

aside passengers who display an anomaly into an abbreviated pat down area to

resolve the alarms. Explosives detection canine teams are also available to

screen passenger's baggage.

TSA is using the pilot project to evaluate the technology and also to

help it develop quick response plans in case the agency in the future needs to

deploy this, or similar, technology based on intelligence reports, a TSA

spokeswoman tells TR2. TSA isn't using the test as part of plans for permanent

installations of the technology, although the Staten Island Ferry and other

transit systems around the country may choose to do so, she says. Data from the

evaluation will be shared with QinetiQ, she adds.

The SPO-20 doesn't do whole body imaging so privacy issues are not a

concern in this pilot.

In earlier pilots of bomb detection systems at ferry systems, TSA used a

Z Backscatter Van provided by American Science and Engineering [ASEI] to screen

vehicles before boarding the Cape May-Lewes Ferry in Cape May, N.J. A second

pilot in 2005 at a Golden Gate Ferry terminal near San Francisco tested a

document scanner and explosive trace detection system supplied by Britain's

Smiths Detection to screen passengers for explosives.

<<Terror Response Technology Report -- 04/19/07>>