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Border Patrol uses wireless cameras originally intended to photograph wildlife

Tree-mounted
BuckEye Cam

The Spokane, WA, sector of the U.S. Border Patrol plans to purchase about 70 long-range wireless camera systems that were originally designed to photograph deer and other animals in the wild, but are now being used in a variety of security applications and as part of the war on terror.

The cameras will be supplied by Athens Technical Specialists, Inc., of Athens, OH, which markets individual cameras – as well as an integrated collection of as many as 30 cameras known as the BuckEye Cam CellBase – under the name BuckEye Cam.

David Moss, a DHS contracting officer, told Government Security News that the cameras are being used by the Border Patrol at several locations along the U.S.-Canadian border. In fact, CBP’s procurement of the cameras had not been publicly announced until the value of the most-recent purchase of approximately 70 cameras had exceeded a $25,000 threshold and required publication on the government’s Federal Business Opportunities Website.

“They don’t want people to know that we’re using them,” said Moss. He said intruders or illegal border-crossers might try to destroy the cameras if they knew they were being used. Individual cameras can be mounted on trees or hidden in the brush, he explained. The sensor that triggers the camera can be located at a distance from the camera.

In a special notice it published online on June 20, Customs and Border Protection – the organizational parent of the Border Patrol – did not specify precisely how it intends to use these wireless cameras. “The Spokane Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol has been testing these particular cameras systems for over 2 years,” says that CBP notice. “It now intends to purchase a large quantity to expand the operational area of their use.”

On its BuckEye Cam Website, ATSI notes several features of its individual cameras, including that they are “completely invisible infrareds”; that they are activated by heat or motion, with no “false triggers”; and that they can transmit pictures and video wirelessly to a computer or another camera.

“The BuckEye Cam CellBase system transmits pictures/videos directly to your computer from anywhere in the world,” says the company’s Website. “Can be set up to operate on most major cellular plans. Single data plan allows you to operate up to 30 cameras all through a single cellbase. This means you can send as many pictures as you want from as many cameras as you want for one fee. With our CellBase system being capable of transmitting 1000's of pictures a night."

Individual cameras can transmit pictures up to two miles, an ATSI employee told Government Security News.

The Border Patrol said that because ATSI equipment “has proven to be unique for our operational needs,” CBP is planning to award the company a sole source order. “The Border Patrol, and other agencies, have not been able to find another commercial system with the extended capabilities as the ATSI equipment,” says the CBP notice.

“Nobody else has anything like these cameras,” Moss told GSN.

Further information is available from David Moss, of DHS, at 509-353-2747 or david.a.moss@dhs.gov.