Past Features

June 11, 2017

SEIDARM in the News

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Sierra Vista Herald -- June 11, 2017
Hereford man makes his own technology to help secure the border
    Glenn Spencer is an inventor who works on sensor technology paired with drones to protect the border. He lives on an expansive piece of land that spans the desert near the U.S. side of the San Pedro river; the large metal border fence is no more than a few meters from the man's house. It's decorated with a large blue sign that reads “secure the border,” which is exactly what Spencer is trying to do with his security system, SEIDARM.
    For the last 14 years, Spencer has dedicated his life to developing technology for border security. What started off as a small unmanned aircraft that looks nothing like a modern-day drone is now a $1 million project that Spencer is trying to get the government to buy.
    His design is simple: put some sensors in the ground, wait for a suspect walk or drive by, and send a drone out to keep an eye on them until patrol agents can catch up.
    Spencer uses extremely sensitive seismic sensors to detect movement --- so much so that it's nearly impossible to hold a sensor still without it picking up on a pulse through the palm of your hand.
    In theory, Spencer said the sensors can be placed underground where they can pick up vibrations from anything that passes by. He said the sensors were so carefully programmed that they know the difference between the vibrations of a human on foot and passing cattle.
    “The drone automatically returns,” Glenn said. “...It can be off again in less than a minute.”
    Spencer said his technology could replace President Donald Trump's wall, almost like an invisible wall. The wall is estimated over $20 billion, according to an internal report from the Department of Homeland Security. Spencer said drones along the border would cost around $150,000 per mile, while sensors are estimated to cost $100,000 per mile.
    With almost 2,000 miles making up the U.S.-Mexico border, Spencer claims his technology would cost around $500 million.
    While Spencer is a supporter of Trump, he doesn't feel that a concrete border wall is the way to go.
    “The difference between a wall and a fence is that you cannot see through a wall,” Spencer said. “My argument is: you don't want to put up a 30-foot concrete wall on the border, you don't know what they're doing on the other side.”
    Spencer has sent his proposal to the government multiple times without any luck. But, it could be because Border Patrol is already using similar technology --- it has been for decades, according to Agent Daniel Hernandez, a public information officer with Tucson Sector Border Patrol.
    Hernandez has been an agent for seven years and said sensor and drone technology was around long before he started.
    Some of the sensors that Border Patrol uses include seismic, infrared and visual and while the technology greatly aids in what Border Patrol does, Hernandez said there are three components of border security that are essential to what the agents do: technology, infrastructure and manpower.
    “No matter what type of infrastructure has been there it's not meant to keep anybody in or out,” Hernandez said. “The infrastructure is there to provide agents with enough time to address the threat of an incursion. So, a 20-foot fence can be defeated with a 21-foot ladder and we know that as much as anybody else, having that fence there gives us the opportunity to get to where the incursion might be with an adequate amount of response time.”
    While the sensors and drones provide the agents with an extra set of eyes and ears, the most useful tools Border Patrol has on hand are the camera towers. Hernandez said these towers are the agents' “best technology asset” because of their heat sensing capabilities that are especially useful at night. The cameras are also placed on the back of pickup trucks for mobile use.
    When is comes to a concrete wall, Hernandez can't definitively say if it'll help or hurt what Border Patrol agents are already doing but he said agents will work with whatever they're given.
    For Glenn, it's not over. He just got a patent for his technology in April and sent in a proposal to government agencies --- they haven't said no to his idea.
    “I put a proposal when they put out request for a proposal for fencing,” Spencer said.” And, I snuck one in saying, ‘I want to use this all along the border,' they're still sitting on it.”