The UA Science and Technology Park could become a major site for the testing and evaluation of border security technologies.
DRS Technologies, a defense company that operates a testing facility at the Tech Park, is vying for a massive contract from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol which would call for the construction and implementation of more than 50 surveillance towers along the Arizona-Mexico border. If awarded the contract, the company would likely expand its presence at the park.
“It’s a huge industry,” said Bruce Wright, associate vice president of University Research Parks.
Wright added that the worldwide market for border technologies is estimated to be around $20 billion.
DRS Technologies is a branch of the industrial corporation Finmeccanica. The company tests a number of border security platforms at the park, including the Integrated Fixed Tower that is located just south of Interstate 10, near the Rita Road exit.
The tower would provide a 360 degree view of the desert via radar, as well as infrared and electro-optical cameras, said Jim Hynes, executive director of DRS Technologies’ department of Homeland Security and Force Protection Programs. If activity is detected by a tower, an operator in a command and control center is notified.
The operator can then use the cameras to determine whether the disturbance came from an animal, a person or a vehicle. With this information, the operator can dispatch the appropriate response, Hynes said.
Remotely operated, this technology could minimize the need for agents on foot, said Bo Padus, a deputy project engineer. He explained that the towers, which can see a human seven and a half miles away, create a highly effective surveillance network by “talking” to one another.
The geography and climate of Tucson offers DRS Technologies, which has installed systems in Egypt and Jordan, a good test site.
“The desert environment replicates the environment where we have existing contracts as well as where the future of the domestic U.S. security market will be,” Hynes said.
If DRS Technologies is awarded the contract, it would likely expand its operations at the Tech Park, Hynes added.
“It’s just a really good fit for us,” Hynes said about the company’s relations with the UA, which was deemed a Center of Excellence for Border Security and Immigration as part of a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “We’re looking to be a long-term resident at the Tech Park.”
Wright said he is excited about the possibilities.
“We see the opportunity to grow a whole industry base around this kind of an initiative,” Wright said.