Tunnel Detection – Innovative Concepts and Technology Assessment

October 22nd, 2009 by

WorldTech International performed an open-source technology intelligence study and assessment on tunnel detection technologies and techniques.   The goal was to collect open source information on innovative methods and approaches, and assess the state-of-the-art, for underground tunnel detection.  The focus of the effort was on new innovative methods/technologies that were being tested or could be applied to tunnel detection, but not to exclude standard/operational methods.   

The investigation identified 60 concepts for tunnel detection.  These concepts were derived from 25 separate application areas/sectors including basic geophysical/geological techniques, remote sensing, intelligence gathering, animal behavior, and botany, to name a few.   The information collected was analyzed using advanced analytical tools and by subject matter experts (SMEs), who reviewed and ranked the information with respect to seven technical, two programmatic, and two strategic criteria determined in cooperation with DHS representatives.   SMEs involved in the assessment included a physicist (expert in advanced technology and systems engineering), a geophysicist (expert in advanced geophysical sensing systems), a geologist (expert in geological exploration and remote sensing observational systems); a civil engineer (expert in rock mechanics and underground sensing techniques); and a geophysicist (expert in geo-electric surveys, acoustics, electromagnetic, and seismic methods).    

Results of the study suggest that while no single, undisputable solution was identified, a number of technical approaches were highlighted as holding promise to advance tunnel detection capabilities.  These approaches require further study and testing to be capable of routine tunnel detection.   The results further illustrate that standard/remote geophysical methods to localize features below the surface (e.g., voids and tunnels) appear to be favored (in research and application).  Such methods are improving incrementally, as well as benefitting from integration (i.e., being used in multi-modal systems).  Additionally, remote sensing approaches for wide-area coverage (e.g., surface characterization, geologic and geodetic mapping) appear to be gaining in interest.   From the data gathered and analyzed, however, as well as from the discussions and review of SMEs, there appears to be no (unclassified) concerted efforts, and little latent interest, to research and/or apply unconventional (“soft science” and/or intelligence) even though such methods may hold great promise for the identification of tunnel locations via indirect evidence surrounding access and entry points (such as patterns of people, vehicles, things, and/or physical/chemical evidence).    

 A holistic, end-to-end program addressing the boarder tunnels from their conception to their use, involving all aspects of socio-cultural-economic intelligence to geophysical/geological/ geodetic exploration would be highly desirable. 

Related Whtie Papers