On a solemn day in America, George W. Bush took aim at “evil-doers” and promised that we, as a nation, would remain on guard. In 2001, it made sense to be frightened in the wake of terrorist attacks. The idea that our nation could be breached with such horrifying results shattered the illusion that America was impervious to harm.
Since 2001, it is safe to say that the acts that spurred the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) feel oddly distant. 2015 is a long way from the urgency and panic of 2001. This is not to say that national security is any less important now that it was then. Rather, it a comment on the resilience of the American spirit. However, our resilience tends to blind us to the bigger picture of national security.
Shifting the Focus
When the national conversation changed to include talk of terrorism, the images conjured related to the images one saw in the media in the latter part of 2001. Terrorism, and the threats it posed, looked splashy and dramatic. Still, there is a depth to the issue that cannot, and should not, be ignored. Whereas Americans may have watched the skies in 2001 or looked over their shoulders in crowded public areas, there is a sense of relative ease in 2015.
According to data gathered by DHS, it turns out that tunnels along the southern U.S. border are emerging as a clear and present danger. Border Patrol officials uncover new tunnels daily. More startling is the statistic that 60% of the tunnels ever discovered by Border Patrol official were found from 2006-2009. The tunnels along the border are smuggling lanes. Generally, they are used to smuggle drugs and illegals across the border. However, there is a possibility that the tunnels exist as potential avenues for moving explosives and terrorists into the country. While drug smuggling is clearly a scourge and deserves the full efforts of law enforcement officials, the possibility that dangerous explosives or people intent on committing acts of terror are moving into the country without detection is a sobering thought.
Information gathered from Border Patrol officials indicates that border tunnels are problematic. The tunnels are difficult to find and have entrances and exits that are often well hidden. The fact that Border Patrol agents are able to uncover tunnels at all is amazing, as every tunnel was discovered without the aid of technology. Border tunnels are endless labyrinths that defy mapping. Or are they.
The solution to assisting Border Patrol officials may come in the form of ground penetrating radar (GPR). By using electromagnetic energy, GPR technology is able to generate detailed, accurate underground images. In the case of border tunnels, GPR may be the technology that helps DHS maintain national security.
How GPR Technology Works
GPR technology uses a combination of low and high frequency electromagnetic waves to create images that provide clear evidence of underground objects. Low frequency pulses penetrate deep in the ground; high frequency pulses tend to result in images with sharp resolution. The combined effect is that GPR technology penetrates deep in the ground, far below similar, earlier technologies. Deeper penetration ultimately yields more accurate imaging.
Help Along the Border (And Beyond)
GPR technology is a viable for Border Patrol agents because it is non-invasive technology. By detecting reflected and refracted signals, the technology can create accurate images of underground tunnels, which tend to be deeper than, say, below ground utility pipes. The images are generated in color, and the detail will allow Border Patrol officials to distinguish tunnels from other objects. Three-dimensional imaging is also an option and would provide unprecedented levels of information to Border Patrol agents.
Considering that GPR can be effective in locating underground tunnels, it is not a stretch to apply GPR to the efforts of soldiers serving abroad. GPR is a way to increase military safety, as detailed imaging can detect landmines and other dangerous explosive devices. The underground imaging capabilities are useful in discovering tunnels overseas, as well.
Often used by civil engineers, GPR is helpful in when planning structures. The images ensure that building sites are on safe, firm ground that is free of underground impediments. GPR is also a tool that is useful in assessing the safety of bridges and roadways. The images generated can give accurate measurements that determine the safety of a bridge or road.
Border Patrol officials keep the country safe, and it is clear that they are in need of technology to assist in their important work. GPR technology is the right tool for the job. Underground border tunnels are potential threats to national security, and GPR technology is the way to keep our borders as safe as possible.