Border Patrol Wants Robots that Can Go Underground and Report Back

By Aaron Boyd

June 21, 2019

Customs and Border Protection uses technology to scan faces, probe vehiclesand keep a watchful eye on the border from the skies above. The agency—with help from Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate—also is looking to send robots into underground tunnels and other places where its sensors can’t communicate.

The Science and Technology Directorate released a request for informationMonday to get a sense of the market for robotic communications technology. Specifically, the agency is looking for off-the-shelf tech that can capture and transmit data—including photos and video—and map hard to reach places.

DHS S&T is interested in evaluating robotic communication capabilities to characterize underground structures, contents, threats and obstacles along the U.S. southern border,” according to the RFI. “These environments range in size and shape, but are all characterized by lack of GPS-signal, short distance—less than 50 meters—line of sight, and a variety of building materials.”

The agency is looking for solutions that can cover 14 technical areas:

While funding will be provided to advance the technologies, officials are looking for solutions that are past the development stage and ready for field trials.

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Related: DARPA Wants to Make Underground Maps on the Fly

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The agency plans to hold a demonstration and evaluation exercise August 5-10 in Arizona. Invites to the event will be sent based on responses to the RFI, which are due by 5 p.m. July 17. Contracting officers will be accepting questions through 5 p.m. July 10.

Based on performances during the demo session, Homeland Security expects to award cooperative research and development agreements, or CRADAs.

By Aaron Boyd // Aaron Boyd is an award-winning journalist currently serving as senior editor for technology and events at Nextgov. He primarily covers federal government IT contracting and cybersecurity issues affecting both civilian and defense agencies. As a lifelong nerd and policy wonk, he feels right at home covering the intersection of technology and policy in the nation's capital.

June 21, 2019