The Cameron Group, Inc.

Cameron Vehicle-Based Threat Detection System (VBTDS) for WMD / Explosives in Air Cargo


Spring 2015, Fremont, CA — The Cameron Group, Inc., is bringing together a team of commercial firms and government organizations to demonstrate the capabilities of its Vehicle-Based Threat Detection System (VBTDS) to ascertain the presence of Weapons of Mass Destruction – nuclear weapons or materials, chemicals, biologicals or explosives in contraband cargo loaded onto aircraft.

The U.S. and all American citizens are potentially in serious danger from terrorist actions involving cargo aircraft. The danger goes beyond the possibility that cargo planes en route to the U.S. could be hijacked. The actual threat of hijacking has been acknowledged by Homeland Security. A potentially worse scenario, which is a poorly acknowledged danger, is the very real possibility that terrorists could surreptitiously transport a Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) into our country onboard a cargo plane.

Tragically, even before the cargo has a chance of inspection on the ground, the weapon aboard might be detonated by an automatic system when the aircraft approaches its landing above a U.S. population center.

A new security system is necessary to detect the potential of any WMD being loaded onto these cargo aircraft before they enter U.S. airspace. The situation requires a Vehicle-Based  system of sensors and countermeasures that would be automated, secure, and easy to use on the fleet of cargo (or passenger) aircraft entering U.S. airspace.

Ground-based systems for cargo and personnel screening currently being set up by the U.S. government would be ineffective against this type of threat. Ground-based screening measures are inadequate because cargo from a foreign airport is under the control of the local (foreign) personnel until it is loaded into the aircraft for departure. U.S. inspectors located at various foreign shipping points are not adequate protection, either; although (if any of them are present) they might sometimes check the contents of crates and paper work — but not necessarily. The final decision about the acceptability of the cargo rests with the captain of the flight that will carry the shipment. The captain can accept or reject the load based on his assessment of the flight safety. A WMD might be hidden in a pre-packaged pallet or introduced while cargo is being staged for loading – it might also be possible for a terrorist to place weapons inside some of the shipping crates. The fact that ordinary cargo is often stolen is proof that it is possible to sneak something into one of the large pallets or crates with sufficient dimensions. Furthermore, terrorists might accomplish an inside job by bribing or coercing local personnel to gain access.

No amount of domestic U.S. airport security offers real protection against this problem. Some years ago, a stunt by ABC News showed that some depleted U-238 could be air shipped from Jakarta into downtown Los Angeles without any intervention by U.S. Customs or Homeland Security.

Normally, the U.S. Customs authorities expect to take control of the situation after arrival in the U.S. by holding the cargo in impound until it has been cleared to enter our country. Unfortunately, this process would fail catastrophically if the cargo contained a weapon set to detonate when the aircraft descended on final approach before landing. Consequences of a nuclear air burst over a major city could be horrific. Even a radiological bomb — a conventional explosive packed with radioactive waste — would be very devastating, because of the media panic it would create. Some type of weapon arranged to disperse a chemical or biological agent is also a great concern. A device designed to explode the aircraft and produce widespread dispersal of chemical or biological materials could potentially kill hundreds of thousands of American citizens. Of course, the crew would be killed and the aircraft would crash in these scenarios.

A truly effective WMD Detection System must achieve aircraft cargo Threat Standoff. WMD Detection must occur before the aircraft enters U.S. airspace. How can this be done? What is the real need?

The only effective prevention against WMD hidden in cargo would be sensors inside the aircraft to inform the pilot and U.S. authorities that a dangerous substance and/or a weapon had been loaded onto the aircraft. How can this be accomplished?

Cameron has invented and patented a Vehicle-Based Threat Detection System (VBTDS) that provides continuous WMD threat detection and automated, secure, real-time global communications reporting to an Authentication Monitoring System for US Authorities in the United States. All of the radiation detectors and other required sensor devices are currently available. The secure global communications network is already operational and will be adapted to include VBTDS authentication.

To accomplish the nuclear detection accurately and with very minimal false alarms, it is necessary to sense the patterns of both neutrons and gamma rays in order to detect either nuclear weapons or radiological material. In the past it was necessary to carefully calibrate such sensors and to periodically re-calibrate them. Today, detectors are available that do not require calibration and are essentially free of false alarms. Thus it should be feasible to maintain calibration of the sensors and guard against tampering. After all aircraft doors have been closed, the air inside the cargo space will be sampled to detect chemical / biological agents or a chemical explosive that could serve as a weapon.

Once put into operation, if the required, all-safe aircraft authentication does not occur, that aircraft can be held at the foreign airport. U.S. authorities can notify all parties involved in real time. In case the pilot gets an alarm message, there should be hand-held monitors available which would be used to surveille each crate or pallet, in order to determine which one is the source that caused the alarm from the Cameron VBTDS cargo monitor. Should the aircraft take off anyway, in the presence of an alarm, or without authentication, the pilot can be notified not to approach the U.S. airspace. Even in the absence of an initial alarm before takeoff, and with a proper authentication from the VBTDS global network from the U.S. authorities, the VBTDS continues to scan all during the flight, as some WMD may be even better detected over the time of the flight. If a subsequent alarm occurs during flight, the pilot is notified and the notification is sent via the VBTDS network. If that is ignored, the aircraft can be interdicted.

True Threat Standoff is achieved outside the U.S. Airspace.

It would be prudent of the United States to design, develop, fabricate, adapt and use these VBTDS Systems on the air cargo fleet before there is some nuclear or other WMD threat. After initial validation on cargo aircraft, these devices could also be applied to commercial passenger aircraft, and possibly adapted to monitor cargo entering the many vulnerable U.S. Ports of Entry, both on land and from an entry via sea. Government agencies or commercial firms involved in defense (DoD), intelligence, homeland security (DHS, FAA, TSA) can employ forms of the VBTDS in numerous applications. Use on cargo aircraft should be mandated.

For more information, or to express your interest in the Cameron VBTDS or the planned demonstration test, contact Dr. Bill Webster by telephone at 1.925.895.3275, or email Cameron at