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Security Forces’ new toy

DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga. -- Staff Sgt. Rick Berghult, 94th Security Forces Elite Gate Guard, aims in on passing vehicles.  He does not have a specific target.  He says he would be happy to "shoot" anyone that drives by because at least one person deserves it.  The new LIDAR system is the latest in speed detection at Dobbins Air Reserve Base.

DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga. -- Staff Sgt. Rick Berghult, 94th Security Forces Elite Gate Guard, aims in on passing vehicles. He does not have a specific target. He says he would be happy to "shoot" anyone that drives by because at least one person deserves it. The new LIDAR system is the latest in speed detection at Dobbins Air Reserve Base.

DOBBINS ARB, Ga. -- Light Detection and Ranging or LIDAR is the newest form of traffic enforcement technology being employed here at Dobbins. Not to be confused with RADAR, an older device still in use today, LIDAR is a handheld, “point and shoot” piece of equipment that is much more effective. 

Dobbins Security Forces work with local police departments to share information and technology. Officer Rob Wessell, Alpharetta Police Department, teaches the LIDAR certification course for Dobbins officers. The course is extensive, requiring classroom time as well as field training before an officer is certified to actually use the device for law enforcement. Dobbins Security personnel take the same class that the Georgia Peace Officers Standards and Training board requires of local departments. Tech. Sgt. Justin Wilson, 94th Security Forces Squadron training NCOIC said, “We realized the need for more effective traffic enforcement on base to keep pedestrians safer and reduce accidents.” He added that there has been a notable decrease in the number of accidents on base since the employment of the LIDAR. During the course, officers are trained in the basics of laser technology, how to test and operate the device, case law pertaining to its use as well as possible errors with the system and how to avoid them. 

Commonly referred to as a “laser,” LIDAR is much more advanced than previous speed detection devices. The most common known device, RADAR uses a Doppler signal similar to what meteorologists use to detect weather patterns. The signal is sent out from the unit and gradually becomes larger as it advances. When the signal hits a moving object such as a vehicle, the signal is then bounced back to the device. The internal computer measures the time it takes for the signal to get back and forth and is able to calculate the speed of the object. The problem with RADAR is the size of the beam, which is becomes large very quickly and can take up too many lanes of traffic, so the biggest vehicle is the one that sends back the reading, not the fastest. The RADAR is also very easily detectable since the spread is so large. LIDAR is different primarily because of a smaller beam. At 1,000 feet, the signal is only three feet wide. So since most cars are about six feet wide, LIDAR is vehicle specific. 

The laser itself looks a lot like a laser gun from a sci-fi movie. An officer points it at a vehicle, stares through the top sight and is able to see a red beam where he is aiming. The result is an absolute target and a more accurate measurement of speed. Jamming and detection devices that would have worked on a RADAR system are useless on the LIDAR. This is because the beam is so specific and on for such a short period of time, if a detector was able to pick up the signal, it would be too late. 

“The goal of utilizing the LIDAR is to provide better enforcement of traffic law,” said Master Sgt. Terry Wilson, 94th SFS shift supervisor. With police and military technology ever changing, Dobbins Security Forces are doing their best to stay at the cutting edge.