Sensor-Makers See Rising Homeland Demand

PARIS — Even as they showcased a sensor that can spot a gunman from more than six miles away, officials from a unit of L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. said they’re seeing rising demand for non-defense applications.

Like catching speeders.

Spain recently deployed the first of a planned several MX-series imaging systems made by Wescam, part of New York-based L-3. The device, which houses multiple thermal imaging and electro-optical sensors, was installed beneath a helicopter that flew over the capital of Madrid on a law-enforcement mission to track speeding motorists on the highways.

Some 250 drivers were nabbed in a short time and traffic fatalities plunged almost 30 percent, according to Bill Swindall, director of international sales for the Westcam unit.

“We didn’t know it’d be used to measure speed and give out traffic tickets,” he said during an interview in the company’s booth at the Paris Air Show.

L-3 Wescam, based in Burlington, Ontario, in Canada, competes against companies such as Raytheon Co., based in Waltham, Mass., and FLIR Systems Inc., based in Wilsonville, Ore.

The companies offer technology with increasingly better image stability and long-range detection. In addition to the gunman, L-3’s showed crisp, grayscale video of a cat crossing the street several miles away.

“Because you have the infrared and see stuff the eyeballs can’t, it’s very easy to find,” Swindall said.

The company displayed versions of its new MX-25 imaging system, the biggest product in the series, nicknamed “grandpa bear.”

The MX-25 designed for airborne applications can be affixed to planes, helicopters, blimps and standing structures, while the hardier model built for ground missions can be installed on ground vehicles such as tanks and trucks. During testing, it was dropped to the ground from a height of several feet and still functioned flawlessly, officials said.

The systems range in size and cost, from $300,000 to $2 million, and can be used for everything from monitoring borders and wildfires to now catching speeders. The company has sold about 1,000 of the devices to several dozen countries.

“There’s a huge international market for it,” Swindall said.

L-3 is also poised to announce the first sale of the new MX-25 unit to a U.S. customer, officials said.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • hibeam

    Ten years ago the feds tried to put cameras on poles along the Southern border. They could not pull it off.

    • hibeam

      They were in charge of the poles. They can not figure out what a fence is. What chance did they have against a pole.

  • david

    Because the Fed’s have no desire to stop illegals.


    Is anyone else AMAZED that our Homeland Security folks have FINALLY FIGURED OUT they can use these sensors too?

    hibeam - The are the ORIGINAL folks that could not figure out “How can you attach a TA-312 to a TRdoubleE”!!

  • blight_

    Trying to resolve the pixellated lat/long, and I’m getting a position in the Pacific Ocean, west of Colombia’s coastline, a little bit WSW of Cocos Island.

    • GJNelson

      Same location here… looks like a USCG RHI boat, to the left in photo, doing an anti-drug boarding, so would guess camera is on a HH65 Dolphin or HH60 Jayhawk.

    • EW3

      Hope this is a training mission.
      Don’t understand what justifies us pulling over ships on the high seas. It surely is not in the constitution.
      Or have we become the world’s ocean cops?

  • hibeam

    The Department of Looking the Other Way.

  • Cliff M

    Most of the time the GOV is looking the wrong way or not looking. At least not caring.