Homeland Security develops new portable gunshot detection system

The Department of Homeland Security said its Science and Technology Directorate has developed a portable gunshot detection system in collaboration with the Massachusetts-based Shooter Detection Systems company. 

The department said that the system, known as SDS Outdoor, could provide “critical information about outdoor shooting incidents almost instantaneously to first responders.”

The new system is reportedly an enhancement to the commercial, off-the-shelf Guardian Indoor Active Shooter Detection System. 

The department said SDS Outdoor uses both the sound and flash of the gunshot to detect and validate each gunshot, in order to drastically reduce false positives. 

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An exterior view of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Building in Washington D.C., on Jan. 5, 2023.
((Photo by Celal Gunes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images))

It can also be deployed for temporary events in locations where infrastructure support is not available, such as open-field concerts or pop-up rallies.

Furthermore, the agency noted that most other systems rely principally on sound, which can have higher false-positive rates. 

Following nearly two years of development, prototype testing started in January of last year, and a real-time demonstration to a user advisory group was provided in May. 

The system was then tested by the Science and Technology Directorate’s National Urban Security Technology Laboratory and the First Responder Technology Program team in an Operational Field Assessment at Fort Dix, New Jersey, in November. 

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Homeland Security said that feedback from participating law enforcement agencies helped to make the system more effective in detecting and alerting responders to gunshots.

SDS Outdoor also complements other Science and Technology Directorate-developed detection and tracking technologies, such as MappedIn Response and Detection of Presence of Life through Walls.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security flag is seen on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Building in Washington D.C., on Jan. 5, 2023. 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security flag is seen on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Building in Washington D.C., on Jan. 5, 2023. 
((Photo by Celal Gunes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images))

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“Many U.S. gunshot detection technologies are not easily deployed in the field or at temporary locations,” Dimitri Kusnezov, DHS Under Secretary for Science and Technology, said in a statement. “This new system can be moved by one or two officers without the need for technicians to transport and set up. This mobile capability will help responders approach gun violence incidents with greater awareness, reducing response times and increasing responder safety.”

Critics have questioned the effectiveness of gunshot detection systems, and some say that past efforts have wasted taxpayer dollars.

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