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Lines of defense

RIT researchers are at work on projects aimed at improving the nation's security. Here is a look at some of the efforts underway.

RIT aids combat troops, homeland security

A U.S. military helicopter crashes in Afghanistan Jan. 20, killing two Marines and injuring five others. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld attributes the tragic loss to "mechanical problems."

Maintenance of military vehicles becomes critical in times of crisis, when planes, ships, tanks, trucks and other equipment are in constant use, often under extreme conditions. "It's a challenge to maintain readiness in the face of stress on equipment resources," notes Nabil Nasr, director of RIT's National Center for Remanufacturing and Resource Recovery (NCR3).

Scott Valentine, operations manager, Scott Nichols, senior staff engineer, and Nabil Nasr, director, (left to right) use a diagnostic tool to examine a humvee on loan from the Marines.

The center is working with the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) on technologies to ensure that equipment - ground, sea and air - is ready and reliable at all times. The key, explains Nasr, is "asset health management" - a process that involves continuous monitoring of systems to forewarn of failures, to better define the expected life cycle of components and to develop cost-effective recycling for worn components.

Working on military humvees and light armored vehicles in the NCR3 work bays, researchers are developing software and new devices that can track temperature, noise, vibration, contaminants in oil, fuel consumption and other variables and relay the information via satellite to a central base. The system can work on single units or on fleets of vehicles.

“There’s so much you can do with this technology,” says Nasr. Besides monitoring the condition of vehicles, such systems could collect critical strategic information. For instance, details of an unexpected attack on a vehicle could automatically be relayed to headquarters. These systems also could collect and send data from unmanned observation stations along borders or other key areas. Patrol vehicles – land or air – or Coast Guard ships could monitor information about the surroundings, allowing a central station to “see” and respond to situations immediately – without the necessity of personnel returning to base or calling in a report.

With funding from the federal budget, NCR3 is establishing a new initiative called the Center for Systems Modernization and Readiness. The focus will be on methods of prolonging the life of military equipment in use now and on designing future equipment so it can be more easily upgraded.

NCR3 has been working with the Navy for four years to integrate remanufacturing strategies in the design and maintenance of defense systems. The 2001-02 appropriations bill included $3 million to continue that effort. Sen. Charles Schumer and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter were instrumental in obtaining this funding. To date, RIT has received $11 million in federal support for this research.

Remote sensing provides tools for improved security, defense

Remote-sensing technology - a long-time research specialty at RIT - has a multitude of applications for national security.

Imaging scientists working on remote-sensing research are, from left: Professor John Schott, Distinguished Researcher Michael Richardson and researcher Scott Brown.

Under the terms of a $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research, imaging scientists at RIT's Laboratory for Advanced Spectral Sensing (LASS) in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science are devising methods for processing and analyzing data captured in wavelengths invisible to the human eye. The technology will help the Navy with tasks such as detecting submerged mines and other potential dangers, identifying suitable locations for landing troops and locating military targets.

The scientists are working with data collected by the latest generation of satellite and airborne sensors.

"The volumes of raw data produced by these sensors can overwhelm both human interpreters and conventional computational tools," says principal investigator John Schott. "The RIT project is focused on developing techniques to merge physical models with advanced computational algorithms. This should allow us to see more and do it more efficiently so that analysis of the images can be done largely, if not entirely, by computer."

Schott, director of LASS and the Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing Lab in the Center for Imaging Science, leads a team including project manager Michael Richardson, imaging scientist Anthony Vodacek, and colleagues from Cornell University and the University of California at Irvine.

RIT developing new center for 'information security'

Information technology has given us cellular phones, networked computers, the Internet and online banking. It also has brought a growing list of high-tech crimes such as hacking, virus attacks and identity theft. In the wake of Sept. 11, security for our high-tech world's critical information technology has taken on greater importance.

Sam McQuade joined RIT in fall 2001 to help establish a center for information security.

RIT is positioning itself to become one of the few places in the United States that educates and trains crime specialists in the techniques and management of information security. This emerging field encompasses computer crime (crimes that target information on computers); computer-related crime (where computers are incidental to crime, such as to keep records of elicit activities); and cyber crime (in which combinations of computers are used with other devices such as cell phones to execute a crime).

Sam McQuade, assistant professor of criminal justice, joined RIT in fall 2001 to help establish a university-wide center of information security, to be known as the Center for Security Technology Research and Education.

"This is a great opportunity for the College of Liberal Arts to work with and support other colleges because information security is multidisciplinary in nature; no one can lay claim to everything that needs to be taught," says McQuade, former study director for the Committee on Law and Justice of the National Research Council of the National Academies of Sciences, and former program manager for the National Institute of Justice of the U.S. Department of Justice.

For example, information technology is a key component of the criminal justice system and the commercial security industry. But imaging, sensing, biometrics, communication, transportation and surveillance technologies are also critical in these employment sectors, McQuade explains.

In addition to developing academic programs in information security, the Center for Security Technology Research and Education will partner with industry and government agencies to conduct research on using imaging and remote sensing for homeland security.

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