Homeland Protection and Air Traffic Control — Division 4

ERSA sensor systemThe Homeland Protection and Air Traffic Control Division leads MIT Lincoln Laboratory's efforts in homeland protection, air traffic control, and bioengineering. For homeland protection, the division focuses on systems and technology for chemical and biological defense; maritime, border, and airspace security; and disaster response. The division's air traffic control programs support the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Next Generation Air Traffic System initiative by developing a national GPS-based surveillance system, airborne and ground-based collision avoidance technologies, advanced weather forecasting and associated decision support tools, and future air traffic control tower automation. Bioengineering programs span four broad technical areas: biomedical research, synthetic biology, bioinformatics, and biometrics.

Recent and planned accomplishments include

  • Development and operational transition of the Enhanced Regional Situation Awareness system for air defense of the National Capital Region
  • Development and prototyping of architectures and technologies to improve multiagency collaborative command during disasters such as wildfires, earthquakes, or floods
  • Testing of a system to protect subway passengers in a major metropolitan region from biological attacks
  • Development, testing, and fielding of a new chemical defense system for the U.S. Army and National Guard Civil Support Teams
  • Deployment and testing of automated runway status and safety lights at Boston's Logan International Airport for reducing the likelihood of hazardous runway incursions
  • Development of an eight-hour automated thunderstorm forecast for use in air traffic management facilities

The division's most important asset is its innovative workforce with expertise across technologies including radar, optical, acoustic, and biological sensing; large software system development; weather forecasting; decision support; and systems analysis and modeling.


Group 42—Surveillance Systems
The Surveillance Systems Group develops integrated sensing and decision support systems for both Air Traffic Control and Homeland Protection. Current programs focus on new sensor, data fusion, and net-centric systems addressing both the air traffic mission of improving capacity, safety, and security within the U.S. airspace, and the homeland protection areas of disaster response and homeland air defense. Key accomplishments include the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System; the Enhanced Regional Situation Awareness system, which improves the identification and response to airborne threats in the National Capital Region; Runway Status Lights, which improve the safety of taxiing aircraft at major airports; and the Next-Generation Incident Command System, which enables multiagency collaborative command and control for large-scale disasters. The group works all phases of the solution to a problem from original concept development through development of operational prototypes. To accomplish these goals, the group employs a broad base of technical expertise, including systems analysis, software architecture and development, radio-frequency and digital hardware design, and system integration.

Group 43—Air Traffic Control Systems
The Air Traffic Control Systems Group develops sensors, automated forecasting systems, and decision support systems to reduce the impact of adverse weather and traffic constraints on air transportation. The group has broad Lincoln Laboratory expertise in signal processing, meteorology, systems analysis, machine learning, human factors, software architectures, and data management technologies. Extensive field evaluations and simulation studies are employed to ensure user acceptance and the successful transition of new technologies into operational use. Key accomplishments include the development of the Terminal Doppler Weather Radar and ASR-9 Weather Systems Processor, and deployment of decision support systems at numerous facilities in the United States. These systems include the Integrated Terminal Weather System, Corridor Integrated Weather System, Route Availability Planning Tool, and a prototype Tower Flight Data Manager. Broader initiatives into transportation logistics, environmental impact reduction, and roadway congestion management are also under way.

Group 44—Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Systems
The Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Systems Group develops new sensors, signal processing techniques, network and communication systems, situational awareness systems, and collaborative decision support architectures to support domestic and international humanitarian assistance and disaster relief needs.

Group 45—Informatics and Decision Support

The Informatics and Decision Support Group develops advanced software systems, analytics, and human-systems interface solutions to improve the timeliness, confidence, and optimality of decisions. The group focuses on interactive analytics over large data sets to support distributed and collaborative decision making, emphasizing human-in-the-loop methods where the human is part of the process to help refine the decisions and the analytics. The application areas for the group are diverse and include military deployment and distribution services, health informatics, security and intelligence, transportation security, chemical and biological defense, and disaster management. The technology focus for the group includes software architectures and systems, video analytics, serious games, information mining and fusion, human factors, and natural language processing. The group's projects encompass and influence activities from early problem definitions and system concept definitions to prototype development and operator evaluations.

Group 46—Homeland Protection Systems
The Homeland Protection Systems Group develops system architectures, conducts technology assessments, and performs risk-reduction demonstrations addressing future capabilities for homeland protection. Current programs focus on disaster response, maritime and land border surveillance and interdiction, chemical/biological defense, and infrastructure protection (for example, airport and special event security). These activities require modeling, simulation, field measurements, and demonstrations to assess the ability of emerging technologies and architectures to meet mission requirements. This work often involves direct interaction with operational partners in the Department of Homeland Security, state and local authorities, and Department of Defense. Staff in the group maintain expertise across a broad range of technologies, including radar, optical, acoustic, biological, and chemical sensing. In addition, researchers synthesize these technology areas into innovative architectural concepts to assist in defining next-generation capabilities.

Group 47—Chemical and Biological Defense Systems
The Chemical and Biological Defense Systems Group develops systems and technology for disaster preparedness, detection, mitigation, and attribution, with emphasis on chemical and biological defense. Principal sponsors are the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense. The work of the group is highly interdisciplinary; as a result, the backgrounds of the researchers are diverse, including engineering (electrical, mechanical, chemical, biomedical), physics, mathematics, computer science, chemistry, and biology. Rigorous systems analyses produce system architectures and recommend research areas to guide government investment. These analyses are grounded by modeling and simulation of threats and defenses, and by data analysis. Sensor development is conducted at several levels, including initial measurements of detection signatures, proof-of-concept experiments for biological or chemical assay or electro-optic sensors, integration into autonomous sensors along with development of the associated electronics and algorithms, and rigorous field testing in relevant environments. The group develops and tests multitechnology integrated systems in operational settings. The integrated systems include significant algorithm development to fuse multisource information. Emerging thrusts in the group include support for additional homeland security missions, countering weapons of mass destruction, and explosives detection.

Group 48—Bioengineering Systems and Technologies

The Bioengineering Systems and Technologies Group seeks to improve the performance of human-centered missions through preventing injury and disease, improving sensing and identification of people and their environment, and speeding rehabilitation and recovery. This goal is accomplished through four broad technical areas: biomedical research, synthetic biology, bioinformatics and biometrics, and forensics. Biomedical research includes advanced sensing, algorithms, modeling, prototyping, and field testing of technologies to diagnose disease, predict outcomes, avoid injuries, and monitor and enhance human performance. The synthetic biology research area emphasizes the development of tools and techniques that will greatly speed the design, evaluation, and assessment of genome-wide engineering approaches through highly integrated microfluidic devices. Bioinformatics is applied across the group to uncover signatures in high-throughput genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic data sets. Biometrics and forensics research is developing technologies and systems for human identification, including rapid DNA analysis, standoff biometric sensing, scientific validation of forensic techniques, and integrated architecture analyses. This highly interdisciplinary group draws on skills from biology, biochemistry, biosignal processing, engineering, computer science, physics, and medical research areas. Primary government sponsors are in the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice, as well as the National Institutes of Health.


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