- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 11, 2002

The Department of Homeland Security exists only on paper, but the technology it will rely on has taken shape.
That includes the gyroplane, a hybrid aircraft that looks like a miniature helicopter and took its maiden voyage during the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympics. Olympic officials hired Salt Lake City's Groen Brothers Aviation to provide aerial surveillance of Olympic facilities with the gyroplane.
"We found several people in places where they didn't belong," Groen Brothers Aviation Chief Operations Officer James P. Mayfield III said.
Now the company is busy marketing the gyroplane to the federal government.
The aircraft is an example of one of the many high-tech innovations that small businesses are marketing to a federal government eager to spend money to bolster domestic security. The proposed Department of Homeland Security would have an annual budget of $37 billion under President Bush's plan.
Nearly 50 small companies crammed into a room at the Dirksen Senate Office Building yesterday to show off their technology to members of Congress and to Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge.
"If necessity is the mother of invention, there is no more urgent need to protect our citizens, our institutions and our way of life from terrorism. We need to find permanent solutions," Mr. Ridge said.
It remains to be seen what technology the government invests in. Federal officials still are wading through reams of homeland security proposals. The Defense Department issued a call for proposals from tech companies after the September 11 terrorist attacks and received an estimated 12,500, said Michael Wynne, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.
While that was thousands more than the 300 to 400 proposals the Defense Department expected, the federal government is looking to the private sector for help in bolstering domestic security.
"The Defense Department is growing increasingly reliant on the capabilities of the business community, both large and small, to provide the technology innovations and ingenuity necessary to provide homeland security as well as meet and defeat the terrorist threat we all face," Mr. Wynne said.
The gyroplane could provide low-cost surveillance because it has fewer parts than a standard helicopter, requiring less maintenance, Mr. Mayfield said. The aircraft earned this name because its overhead rotor is powered by the flow of air, not electricity, once it takes off. That prevents the aircraft from stalling.
Groen Brothers has spent $42 million over 16 years to develop the gyroplane, and the company expects to have it commercially available next year at an estimated $749,000.
Not all the high-tech tools on display were that expensive.
Ion Track Instruments, of Wilmington, Mass., was pitching its phone-booth-sized machine that detects trace amounts of drugs and explosives.
Airports in Orlando, Fla., and Knoxville, Tenn., are using the $100,000 devices as part of a pilot project. The company is marketing the devices to the Transportation Security Administration to replace standard metal detectors that passengers walk through before entering terminals. The Ion Track device collects particles using jets of air to blow molecules off skin, clothing and luggage. Then it conducts a quick chemical analysis to confirm or deny the presence of everything from explosives to marijuana and cocaine.
The device could have detected the presence of explosives on the shoes of terror suspect Richard C. Reid, Ion Track salesman Tim Crabtree said. Reid was arrested in December on suspicion of trying to blow up an American Airlines trans-Atlantic flight using explosives in his shoe.
Mr. Ridge approved the purchase of smaller models of the Ion Track device for some Pennsylvania prisons while he was governor, said John R. Sperling, Ion Track's director of federal government and military sales.
Peter Mottur, president of LiveWave Inc., in Newport, R.I., was touting his company's surveillance tool. The device lets law enforcement personnel, or other agencies, control cameras remotely and view surveillance video from the cameras in real time on handheld computers.
From the ground-floor room at Dirksen Senate Office Building, Mr. Mottur used a personal computer to view video from one of the company's cameras pointed at Boston's Logan Airport.
But the lucrative federal market hasn't generated fiscal windfalls for companies such as LiveWave that are hawking high-tech wares to government officials, Mr. Mottur said.
"I think they've got to spend the money. They've got to respond [to the terrorist threat], and the onus is on them. They don't want to get caught with their pants down," he said.

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