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Exploring Homeland Security Applications for Unmanned Autonomous Systems at Maritime Ports Benjamin Rohrbaugh, Lantern Unmanned Autonomous Systems, LLC



Lantern Unmanned Autonomous Systems, LLC (Lantern UAS), will partner with the Borders, Trade, and Immigration (BTI) Institute, a DHS Center of Excellence led by the University of Houston, to examine the homeland security applications of unmanned autonomous systems (UAS) in the maritime port environment. UAS technology is developing extremely rapidly, and there are potentially important implications for the homeland security practitioners operating at maritime ports. Systems based on UAS technology have the potential to contribute to several aspects of port security (including detection of radiation, stowaways, and seal tampering) with minimal impact on current port operations. 

Through this project Lantern UAS and BTI will develop a testing plan for different UAS and sensor configurations, create software for the operation of UAS threat detection systems, develop protocols to transmit any alerts or other information generated to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and begin testing the system in a controlled environment.  In parallel with this effort, Lantern UAS and BTI will work to identify a port to partner with, obtain the regulatory approvals to operate UAS at the identified port, and implement a pilot program to test fly UAS at the port for surveillance, contraband detection, and cargo security.  

This collaboration between Lantern UAS and BTI will develop research that will be of immediate use to the Department of Homeland Security as it evaluates incorporating UAS into its maritime port security regime. The project will identify the potential homeland security applications of UAS use at sea ports and the areas in which they can provide the greatest benefit to CBP. This project will also identify the most significant obstacles to using UAS in port environments, including the regulatory requirements of other entities such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and dealing with the concerns and requirements of key port stakeholders and state and local governments.  

The program will focus on using UAS at maritime ports for two main purposes – 1) surveillance of maritime ports and cargo stacks and 2) identifying signs of tampering and potential intrusions on containers to help target CBP inspections at the locations most likely to identify contraband. This project will also include an examination of whether thermal imaging capabilities can be used to identify stowaways and potential human trafficking victims and wildlife trafficking. 

2019 Annual Meeting Presentation