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Proceedings Paper

Risk assessment of technologies for detecting illicit drugs in containers
Author(s): Albert E. Brandenstein
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Paper Abstract

This paper provides the highlights of the role risk assessment plays in the United States technology program for nonintrusive inspection of cargo containers for illicit drugs. The Counterdrug Technology Assessment Center is coordinating the national effort to develop prototype technologies for an advanced generation, nonintrusive cargo inspection system. In the future, the U.S. Customs Service could configure advanced technologies for finding not only drugs and other contraband hidden in cargo, but for a wide variety of commodities for customs duty verification purposes. The overall nonintrusive inspection system is envisioned to consist primarily of two classes of subsystems: (1) shipment document examination subsystems to prescreen exporter and importer documents; and (2) chemical and physics-based subsystems to detect and characterize illicit substances. The document examination subsystems would use software algorithms, artificial intelligence, and neural net technology to perform an initial prescreening of the information on the shipping manifest for suspicious patterns. This would be accomplished by creating a `profile' from the shipping information and matching it to trends known to be used by traffickers. The chemical and physics-based subsystems would apply nuclear physics, x-ray, gas chromatography and spectrometry technologies to locate and identify contraband in containers and other conveyances without the need for manual searches. The approach taken includes using technology testbeds to assist in evaluating technology prototypes and testing system concepts in a fully instrumented but realistic operational environment. This approach coupled with a substance signature phenomenology program to characterize those detectable elements of benign, as well as target substances lends itself particularly well to the topics of risk assessment and elemental characterization of substances. A technology testbed established in Tacoma, Washington provides a national facility for testing and evaluating existing and emerging prototype systems in an operational environment. The results of initial tests using the advanced x-ray subsystem installed at the testbed are given in this paper. A description of typical cargo contents and those characteristics applicable to nuclear interrogation techniques are provided in the appendix.

Paper Details

Date Published: 3 March 1995
PDF: 18 pages
Proc. SPIE 2339, International Conference on Neutrons and Their Applications, (3 March 1995); doi: 10.1117/12.204179
Show Author Affiliations
Albert E. Brandenstein, Office of National Drug Control Policy (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 2339:
International Conference on Neutrons and Their Applications
George Vourvopoulos; Themis Paradellis, Editor(s)

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