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Thursday, September 23rd, 2021

Small businesses earn $2M in funding from DHS for handheld passenger screening technology

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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently awarded $2 million to two small businesses to develop advanced, affordable, and handheld detection imaging technology to screen passengers.

Those chosen included Spectral Labs Inc., of San Diego, Calif., and TeraMetrix LLC, of Ann Arbor, Mich. Each received approximately $1 million for their efforts through Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 2 funding. Both had previously demonstrated feasibility in Phase 1 of the program.

“We need to continue evolving our passenger screening technologies with automated, high-performing, easy-to-use devices in order to quickly and effectively detect threats at airports and other screening venues,” Kathryn Coulter Mitchell, DHS senior official performing the duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology, said. “The handheld advanced detection and imaging efforts being developed will address the critical need for a more robust and modernized screening device that is affordable and convenient, and that can work in a variety of environments and situations.”

For Phase 2, Spectral Labs will extend research and development efforts resulting in the production and testing of a compact, mobile handheld anomaly recognition tool. This tool will be capable of locating oddities in or under the clothing of people passing through checkpoints, as well as detecting threats such as explosives. On the other hand, TeraMetrix will continue to pursue production and testing of a handheld millimeter-wave advanced threat detection and imaging wand. Each will have 24 months to produce their prototype and be considered for Phase 3 funding.

“Successful development and implementation of these wand technologies will improve passenger experience and reduce burden and pat-downs by transportation security officers, while at the same time enabling more thorough screenings,” Dr. Karl Harris., S&T Screening at Speed project manager, said. “Through the DHS S&T SBIR program, we are pursuing the development of two approaches for new handheld scanners using newly-available and low-cost 5G electronics and automotive radar devices.”

If the two companies make it to Phase 3, they will be asked to secure funding from private sector and/or non-SBIR government sources. The goal at the end of that phase will be to commercialize and bring their technologies to market.