One Year After 9/11, Jacobs School Faculty Pursue
Technologies for the War on Terrorism
Homeland security has become a new driving force in campus research, and the
Jacobs School is playingan important role in UCSD’s collective effort.
On Aug.22, the School and the California Institute for Telecommunications and
Information Technology [Cal-(IT)²] held a joint Homeland Security Workshop.
Attendees identified core strengths among faculty and researchers, and set up
several teams to integrate their research activities. Then on Sept. 4, 13 UCSD
researchers briefed the media on their current projects with security implications—from
airport security and blast protection, to wireless sensors and new technologies
to detect biological agents.
Interim Dean Frieder Seible is the principal investigator on two high-profile
projects. Together with Structural Engineering Professor Gil Hegemier, he is
conducting ongoing tests of carbon fiber-based materials that can be overlayed
on pillars or walls to mitigate structural damage from an explosion. Separately,
Seible led a multi-disciplinary effort that deployed an ad hoc network of dual-use
cameras and sensors on Coronado Bridge (pictured above). Surveillance, traffic,
seismic and structural data were streamed in realtime to a makeshift control
center at UCSD via the High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network
(HPWREN). Collaborators on the bridge project include HPWREN Director Hans-Werner
Braun, Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Frank Vernon, and Electrical
and Computer Engineering Professor Mohan Trivedi. Both projects are ongoing,
and Seible is talking with agencies including Caltrans, SPAWAR and the Defense
Threat Reduction Agency about funding to accelerate development of the enabling
Seible’s structural engineering colleague, John Kosmatka, is working
on extremely lightweight and strong composites. He is applying that technology
to the design of small, agile unmanned aircraft that would patrol areas
where it is difficult to deploy the current generation of larger reconnaissance
In a separate project, Trivedi was one of the first researchers in the
country to win funding from the new Defense Department counter-terrorism
working group. The $170,000 one-year grant will allow Trivedi to develop
software to detect and recognize faces in a crowd automatically and in
real time. Computer vision is also at the core of two other homeland-security
projects recently begun in Trivedi’s Computer Vision and Robotics
Research lab. He is deploying distributed interactive video arrays along
a four-mile stretch of coastline north of Point Loma. The “intelligent”
network of cameras will monitor activity on land and on the water to detect
possible threats and pass the alert along to the appropriate authority.
Trivedi is also developing a “digital tele-viewer” to allow
multiple users to receive streaming customized video on their handheld
computers from remote crisis sites. The project is funded by the Center
for Commercialization of Advanced Technologies (CCAT), a collaboration
of the Jacobs School and other San Diego institutions formed to distribute
DoD funds for “crisis consequence” research.
CCAT also recently awarded two other grants to Jacobs School researchers.
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) Professor Sergei Krasheninnikov
got the green light to prototype a commercial plasma source for lasers
used in anti-missile defense and destruction of nuclear waste stockpiles.
And MAE researcher Nate Delson is developing low-cost legged robots for
use in search and rescue operations, inspection of biological hazards,
and military surveillance. ECE professor and Cal-(IT)² Division Director
Ramesh Rao is leading an effort to design an advanced disaster communications
infrastructure to ensure rapid and unimpaired response in a crisis. And
Bioengineering Professor Sangeeta Bhatia is working with researchers in
the chemistry department on socalled “smart dust”—microscopic
chips that can be coded to detect chemical or biological hazards while
floating in the air or water. For more information about these and other
research projects visit http://homelandsecurity.ucsd.edu.