One of the biggest challenges for effective border security is the sheer magnitude of the areas that need to be secured. Like all outdoor security applications, achieving control over the border starts with a concept of operations based on an interaction of smart sensors and guards. And the key that underlies any smart systems is accurate alarms that guards can trust. The Secure Border Initiative (SBINet) was originally designed to use radar systems to detect and track individuals illegally crossing US borders using long range cameras until they could be apprehended by border patrol agents. Since radar is potentially insufficient for detecting individuals over such large regions, it’s unlikely that an effective concept of operations could ever be implemented using this approach.
When considering the thousands of miles that make up the US border, you can only begin to imagine the thousands of times every hour foliage or animals would trigger radar nuisance alarms instead of detecting actual human intruders.
Thermal Cameras are a Highly Accurate Detection Source
Under these circumstances, the best way to determine pedestrian motion from background motion is to use a large number of sensors that can accurately know if the target is the size of a human that is moving at the speed a person can typically travel. At the border, this has to be done in the presence of natural landscape and foliage motion that’s similar in size and motion. Of all the detection technologies, only thermal video has the thousands of sensing elements per camera necessary to provide the details to discriminate people from background motion. This is because each image sensor provides many times the details about the scene than radar, increasing the ability to detect pedestrian motion among all other background activity.
For border security with thermal cameras, there’s greater opportunity to ensure that when guards are alerted and need to respond they’re not wasting time chasing nuisance alarms. This creates a level of accountability upon which you can organize a concept of operations and gain operational control over regions of border that are known to be problematic.
Speed and Delay for the Border Security
Importantly, an effective concept of operations must include the strategy of delay to allow border agents sufficient time to respond. One of the goals of the prior border approach was to use large radar towers that could scan many miles of the border with great depth to allow extra response time to intercept pedestrian intruders. Assuming that radar could function as a reliable detection source this could have been a reasonable strategy. On the other hand, smart thermal cameras with video analytics can accurately detect intruders over long distances but not cover as wide of an area as radar. However, the same operational objective can be achieved at less cost by introducing other methods of delay such as a small barrier or fence to slow the ingress long enough to allow border patrol agents to intercept pedestrians effectively, once they had been accurately detected.
The overwhelming question that remains is how to deploy a border security thermal camera system for over such a large area affordably. In our experience, the real expense of a perimeter security system occurs during the time that systems are installed and configured in the field. Accordingly, one of the ways that the Department of Homeland Security is addressing some of the regions along the border is to use pre-integrated mobile platforms that can literally be wheeled out to protect known areas of concerns where individuals are crossing the border today. Critical to the success of these platforms is their likelihood of being able to reliably discriminate pedestrian intrusions from background motion.
It’s our belief that Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) mobile border surveillance trailer platforms using thermal intelligent video cameras can be quickly scaled to problematic border regions and accurately detect pedestrians while minimizing the nuisance alerts that have rendered other solutions less effective. Admittedly, these would need to be placed at closer distances than the radar towers SBINet called for, yet would yield a system that would work reliably and solve the problem at a fraction of the original SBINet cost. These COTS video security trailer solutions are available today.