DHS Concludes Innovative Technology OpEx to Strengthen Urban First Responder Operations

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and its National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) hosted Urban OpEx 2022, an Operational Experimentation (OpEx) where first responders evaluated new and emerging technology solutions in realistic, urban settings throughout the New York Metropolitan area during the week of July 18 – 22.

“Operating environments and emergency response capability needs are always evolving and that makes innovation so important—for today, tomorrow, next year, and beyond,” said Kathryn Coulter Mitchell, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology. “First responders have to tackle evolving threats in their day-to-day operations and during larger-scale emergency incidents. Urban OpEx paves the way for innovation because we’re putting technology developers and first responders in the same room to understand what they need from one another.”

Building on the successes of past Urban OpEx events, DHS S&T partnered with federal, state and local first responder agencies to test leading-edge technologies that address high-priority capability gaps. The weeklong experiment showcased seven technologies including handheld sensors, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), AI-enabled gun detection, incident management and situational awareness platforms, deployable communications and deployable robotics. First responder evaluators assessed the viability of these technologies for urban search and rescue missions, post disaster assessments, chemical detection at large events, anomaly and threat detection, perimeter surveillance, critical infrastructure inspections, transporting blood and medical supplies, and communicating in remote and degraded environments.

“First responders operate under truly unique and challenging conditions. Understanding how new technologies might affect their operations, if they will add value or create distractions can be a challenge,” said Bhargav Patel, NUSTL’s Senior Technologist. “Urban OpEx is an attempt to address this challenge by creating structured experiments contextualized around realistic scenarios.”

Urban OpEx maximized opportunities to gather end-user feedback and perspectives from a broad spectrum of participants. More than 150 participants attended the event from public safety agencies around the nation. First responders from the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York City Fire Department, New York City Emergency Management Department, New York City Police Department, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Lubbock (Texas) Fire Rescue, and San Diego Fire and Rescue evaluated the technologies alongside representatives from federal, state and local agencies including the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Coast Guard, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Department of Defense, Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office, North Carolina Department of Information Technology, New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, New York City Mayor’s Office, New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, among others. Industry participants from Ghost Robotics, Parsons Corporation, Pendar Technologies, Persistent Systems, Skydio, TDCOMM, and ZeroEyes participated under Cooperative Research and Development Agreements with DHS S&T.

Information and feedback collected during Urban OpEx 2022 will be published in a series of technology reports in the DHS publications library. Federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial first responders can access the reports to inform their decision-making and guide future technology investments.

Read the Urban OpEx 2022 Fact Sheet to learn more.

Read more at DHS S&T

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