Border Security & Surveillance

Homeland Defense - Detecting Disguises at Border and Immigration Security Checkpoints Using Short Wave Infrared (SWIR) Cameras

As the US continues to increase its security at border crossings, airports and other points of entry, biometrics will play an important role. Fingerprints and other direct contact means will become final identifiers of persons. Currently, however, the fingerprint database effectiveness is limited by the size of the database, as well as the difficulty in obtaining fingerprints en mass. As result, most identification is done by customs agents using facial recognition and photo matching done.

One of the unique aspects of SWIR imaging is the unusual way in which natural and artificial materials appear in the SWIR part of the spectrum. For example, hair is highly reflective and thus appears white in the black and white imagery seen in the SWIR part of the spectrum, wavelengths from 0.7 microns to 2.0 microns. Artificial hair, on the other hand, will appear much darker, sometimes almost black. In the images seen here, an actor is wearing typical stage makeup in the color image at the left. On the right; however, we see the same actor in the SWIR band. Now, the artificial elements of the makeup appear quite obvious.


Translating this to a border crossing or checkpoint situation, one can assume that anyone wearing a disguise as they approach the border has some form of criminal or even hostile intent. Employed clandestinely, SWIR imaging can add a very valuable layer of protection in the defense of the homeland.

Many SWIR camera capabilities are considered sensitive. If you would like to learn more about SWIR capabilities for the military, you can register at a special web site, You must be a US Government employee or a USG contractor and be a US Citizen to access this site.