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Advanced Airport Screening Systems for Explosives Detection

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA) Explosives Division (EXD) is seeking white papers supporting advanced X-ray systems development for the Apex Screening at Speed Program (Apex SaS).

The potential use of improvised explosive threats with homemade explosives by terrorists poses many challenges to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in conducting aviation security passenger screening.

This problem is made increasingly difficult by the considerable complexity of contemporary items and materials found in checked and carry-on baggage screened at major airports in the United States.

Improvements to current checked and carry-on baggage screening system operating characteristics are needed that will provide an acceptable level of detection on all threats but also significantly reduce primary screening false alarms and improve overall screening throughput.

Established primary checked and carry-on baggage explosives detection technologies evolved from medical X-ray systems. These conventional transmission X-ray methods utilize two derived discriminating signatures: effective atomic number and density of screened objects. These discriminators perform well for identifying materials where variations in the chemical composition are minimal, such as commercial and military explosives.

Homemade explosives are usually formulated using numerous household ingredients; lacking tight quality control in their preparation, and they have high variations in their chemical composition. The detection of homemade explosives using these two discriminators requires expansion of the system detection windows, which can result in ambiguities with many common items that may be found in checked and carry-on baggage.

This BAA will focus on three specific topic areas:

  • Advanced X-ray Systems Development – Development and testing of full-up system engineering design models (TRL 6-7)
  • Advanced Algorithms and System Integration – Development/maturation of threat detection and false alarm reduction algorithms, integration into operational/prototype systems and demonstration of real time operation
  • Supporting Component Technology Development – Development/maturation of system components and subsystems necessary to evolve laboratory and experimental prototypes into full up X-ray system designs

White papers are due January 27, 2017. Approximately $6 million is available to support multiple awards. Further details are available via HSHQDC-17-R-B0003.

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