(Middle River, MD) -- Maryland State Police Superintendent Colonel Terrence B. Sheridan was joined today by officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) to unveil a new aerial technology system. Developed in Maryland, this technology, known as the Critical Infrastructure Inspection Management System (CIIMS), will enable State Police flight crews to check important structures and locations from the air.
CIIMS includes a computer tablet configured as an electronic "flight bag" that provides an aerial observation team with the latest information about a location important to life in Maryland, such as a large bridge, a dam or a railway station. Flight crews from a helicopter or an airplane use the computer system to check locations throughout Maryland and then forward their observations via a data link to analysts in state agencies. For example, critical infrastructures, such as dams or bridges, can be monitored when they are suspected of being damaged by a storm. These sites can be prioritized for action.
Developed at the direction of the DHS Science and Technology Directorate by APL, CIIMS takes advantage of software originally developed to test and evaluate the Federal Aviation Administration's new GPS-based air traffic control system. MSP approached APL about the possibility of applying this FAA "flight-following" capability to state police aviation assets that were then being upgraded.
Maryland State Police Aviation Command flight crews and aircraft were used during the six-month proof-of-concept development phase. They will continue to support the development of a workable prototype during fiscal year 2008, through feedback and recommendations from CIIMS operators. Officials have been so impressed with the outcome of the technology and its incredible potential that it is available for testing by other law enforcement and homeland security agencies.
"The Maryland State Police is proud to have had a part in the initiation, development and implementation of this important new technology that will enable us to provide better protection for the people of Maryland," Colonel Sheridan said. "I thank the talented engineers at APL for their support and collaboration, and I appreciate the project funding support provided by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate. This is truly a local, state, federal and university partnership that resulted in better homeland security technology not just for Marylanders, but for citizens across our country."
"The CIIMS project is a significant milestone in strengthening critical infrastructure nationwide, and it represents an important step toward improving information sharing among our nation's emergency responders," said Dr. David Boyd, Director of the Command, Control and Interoperability Division of the DHS Science and Technology Directorate. The Division enables seamless and secure information resources for the homeland security community.
"CIIMS is built around software originally developed for the FAA," said DJ Waddell, APL's State and Local Homeland Protection program manager. "It is rewarding to apply this existing technology to help enhance
critical infrastructure protection, especially since the work we are doing with Maryland State Police can potentially be offered to law enforcement agencies nationwide."
Originally uploaded into the CIIMS computer are photographs, GPS coordinates, and recognition keys for critical infrastructure sites in Maryland. Also included with each site are questions composed to specifically address the security of that individual location. A crew member of a Maryland State Police helicopter or airplane will check out the updated flight bag for use on a specific homeland security mission, or for use when returning from a MedEvac call.
When CIIMS is activated, a flight crew member enters a flight path on the computer tablet and is presented with the listings and locations of critical infrastructure sites along the route. CIIMS uses a moving-map display to show the position of the aircraft as it nears a selected location. The moving-map display also shows the location of other aircraft in the vicinity, and offers additional capabilities for pilot situational awareness.
While in flight, photographs are used to compare the structure or location with current visual observations. Also, questions on the computer prompt the crew to observe specific characteristics and enter responses. If something suspicious is observed, the crew will contact area law enforcement or other authorities immediately. If not, another location may be checked, or the crew may return to its base.
After the flight, the computer information will be downloaded and forwarded for review to analysts in agencies that could include the State Police, Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center, Maryland National Guard, Maryland Emergency Management Agency's Joint Operation Center, or other state public safety and emergency response agencies. If information is developed about possible threats to homeland security, it will immediately be communicated to the appropriate local, state, and/or federal agencies for response.
As new information is received by those same agencies, it will be forwarded to CIIMS and uploaded to the equipment. When the next flight crew checks out the CIIMS flight bag, they will already have the latest information to use in their aerial observations.