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Technology Transfer

Years ago it was called “war surplus.” Today, it is called “Technology Transfer.” Whatever it is called, it lets law enforcement take advantage of the huge investment taxpayers have made in developing military technology and hardware. This transfer is even more important in today’s environment where the roles and equipment of the military and law enforcement overlap more than ever. This overlap was clearly evident at the 7th Technologies for Critical Incident Preparedness Conference and Exposition 2005 in San Diego, CA. Here are a few examples.


While the Robot Enhanced Detection Outpost with Lasers may be a high-tech title, the RedOwl has a simple purpose—instantly locate a sniper before the smoke disappears after a shot has been fired. The iRobot Corp that builds the Roomba robot vacuum cleaners, worked with Boston University in developing the RedOwl for the military, which has obvious law enforcement applications.

The RedOwl can detect the source of rounds fired from a 9 mm pistol, AK-47 or M-16 at a range of more than 100 meters. An accuracy of 94% has been demonstrated in field-testing, and it can distinguish between the types of rounds fired. It works in urban environments where snipers are hard to locate because gunshot reports echo off buildings. The RedOwl’s software can detect the original sound source and ignore the echoes.

The RedOwl uses a laser rangefinder from Insight Technology Inc. and sound-detection equipment, an acoustic localizer and classifier, developed by BioMimetic Systems. A Sony digital camera can zoom in on distant objects or people. A thermal imager provides nighttime capability. When the microphones detect a gunshot, the computer determines the source using GPS (Global Positioning System). Then the camera is swiveled and the target is illuminated with either visible or infrared light so the operator can see the sniper. The laser rangefinder calculates the range to the sniper.

The RedOwl is mounted on the iRobot’s PackBot, a battery-powered lightweight robot already in use in Iraq and Afghanistan. PackBots, which are small enough to be carried by one soldier, are used to explore dangerous terrain or enter buildings to search for booby traps. The RedOwl weighs 5.5 pounds and is small enough to mount on vehicles or on the sides of buildings.

Active Denial Technology (ADT)

ADT can provide a non-lethal response in both military or civil environments. ADT uses a 95 GHz non-ionizing electromagnetic beam. An antenna directs the focused, invisible beam toward the target where its energy can penetrate approximately 1/64 of an inch into human skin tissue where the nerve receptors are concentrated. Within seconds, the beam heats the exposed skin tissue to a level where intolerable pain is felt. ADT is effective because it takes advantage of an innate instinctive response to escape harm.

The beam does not cause injury because of the shallow penetration depth of energy at this wavelength and the safety features designed into the system. The sensation is like touching a hot frying pan or the intense radiant heat from a fire. Testing has shown ADT is both effective and safe without any long-term effects. ADT can provide an unprecedented non-lethal capability with a range beyond that of small arms.

The military is interested in ADT as a method of stopping, deterring and turning back an advancing adversary without applying lethal force. The technology can be used for protection of forces, peacekeeping, humanitarian missions and other situations where the use of lethal force is undesirable.

Several organizations are involved in the development of ADT. The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, NM, is the technical manager for prototype development. The Sandia National Laboratories is investigating using the technology to help secure the Department of Energy’s nuclear facilities. The National Institute of Justice is working with Raytheon to develop ADT as a law enforcement tool including a portable ADT-based weapon.

Law Enforcement Advanced Protection

The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center is adapting its Army’s Future Force Warrior (FFW) combat gear technology in Project LEAP (Law Enforcement Advanced Protection). LEAP will help the Department of Homeland Security and the National Institute of Justice assess standards for chemical and biological protection for first responders. The program spearheads a national effort to address multi-hazard protection with an integrated systems approach.

LEAP technology will provide respiratory and percutaneous protection and be designed to interoperate with other equipment. It will replace the big plastic HazMat suits now used that make it difficult to perform tactical operations. The chemical-biological protection suit can be donned in a matter of seconds.

LEAP adopts FFW’s stand-off body armor plating front and rear in a quick don and doff load-carriage vest. A new body armor design reduces the need for soft armor and lessens the blow by giving space for bullet deformation, soft armor covers the shoulders and upper arm. There are attachment loops along the vest for carrying any combination of items including a hydration pouch and extra ammunition.

An ergonomic load-bearing belt holds a drop-down pistol holster and cases for a radio, magazines, handcuffs, flash bangs and other equipment. Knee and elbow pads are integrated into the black cotton/nylon blend fabric uniform, complete with the FFW’s waste management zipper. There is a GPS-equipped computerized helmet.

Other features include a radio antenna suite, flashlight and drop-down visor with heads up display. It is worn with commercially available gloves and boots. Everything is modular, so if something breaks or improved technology becomes available, replacements are easy.

The prototype gear will be used by the Capitol Police, the Massachusetts State Police and the Mount Weather, VA Police. These law enforcement groups will provide feedback about LEAP that will be used to create standards. After these evaluations have been finished, the armor will be developed for ballistic-related protection, electronics and integrated components, and load-bearing requirements.


Not all technology transferred comes from the military. NASCAR fans are familiar with the video images that give a driver’s view of the racing action. For nearly two decades, Integrian, Inc. in Morrisville, NC has been installing video cameras in stock cars that send wireless footage during races. Now, the company is marketing its DigitPatroller® to law enforcement.

DigitPatroller® is based on the company’s expertise in the extremely rugged technology needed to withstand the rigors of the race track. However, the DigitalPatroller® was designed from the start for the harsh public safety environment, not adapted from consumer systems.

The DigitalPatroller® uses digital recording rather than analog videotape technology, now popularly used for in-vehicle recording. Digital recording overcomes the disadvantages when images are stored on tape. These include degradation with time and each time the tape is replayed as well as loss of original data content when copies are made. Also data retrieval from tapes is inefficient. Finally, life span can be reduced when ambient temperature and humidity are not carefully maintained, adding to the cost of analog systems.

With digital systems, signals are stored on computer hard drives. Being digital, data does not change with time, usage or when copied. Random retrieval from a hard drive is virtually instantaneous. Environmental changes have little or no impact.

The biggest advantage, however is that images can be wirelessly streamed from the vehicle to a command post or other police vehicles. Previously, the biggest impediment has been the high cost of digital recording, playback and storage. In the last few years, the cost of digital storage has decreased to the point that digital systems are feasible at affordable prices.

1401 Technology Transfer Program

In 2002, Congress mandated an interagency initiative between the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Justice (DOJ). The 1401 Technology Transfer Program seeks to provide public safety practitioners with technologies that support their homeland security mission. This is accomplished through transfer of priority technologies and expanding the use of relevant DOD technologies by the public safety community.

Currently, the Program is evaluating five DOD technologies for transfer: 1) Distance Learning for Incident Command System, 2) Communi-cations in buildings, 3) Fine Water Mist System for firefighters, 4) Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy for detecting chemical, biological, explosive and hazardous materials, and 5) Bomb Information Sharing and Collaboration Network.

William D. Siuru, Jr., PhD, PE is a technology journalist based on California. He may be reached at

Published in Law and Order, Apr 2006

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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