Path Home Shows 2008 Show Archive November 2008 Show 0845 Oklahoma’s Port to the Sea

Oklahoma’s Port to the Sea

A new federal project is underway to help ensure the safety of the cargo shipping out from the Port of Catoosa.
Oklahoma’s Port to the Sea

Oklahoma’s Port to the Sea

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Tulsa Port of Catoosa

Show Dates

Show 0845: Oklahoma’s Port to the Sea

Air date: November 9, 2008



Rob:  Well, located near the geographical center of the U S, Oklahoma’s Port of Catoosa is one of the largest ice-free ports in the nation.  Each year, tons of cargo are shipped out of Oklahoma, down the Mississippi River, and then on to the world.  Now such low-cost international access is vital to everyone from heavy manufacturers to our farmers, which is why a new federal project is underway to help ensure the safety of that cargo and those who work and live in the area.  Our Russ Jowell shows us how some high tech gear is improving port security.

Russ:  Every day, thousands of tons of cargo flow into our nation’s ports, and sorting out the bad from the good is a monumental task that’s being brought down to size, by THIS miniature chopper.

Robert Houck:  We’ll upload the points from the modem into the helicopter, and the helicopter will be able to fly autonomously.

Russ:  Thanks to a grant from the federal government, OU engineering students, led by professor Robert Houck, are at the Port of Catoosa demonstrating how their newest high-flying creation will give port officials a bird’s eye view of cargo security.

Tom Landers:  So it’s a homeland security issue to be assured that we have global, real-time tracking of containerized freight.

Russ:  OU dean of engineering, Tom Landers, says that one of the keys in making this project successful is to ensure that the technology his team develops does not hinder the efficient flow of goods into and out of the country.

Landers:  We recognize that we cannot hinder the flow of commerce.  And so we’re looking at ways of being efficient in identifying likely threats and focusing on those first.

Russ:  And the first step in identifying those threats is to simply identify what packages you have, and don’t have, a task Professor Satish Bukkapatnam is working to make a little easier with the use of RFID technology.

Satish Bukkapatnam:  The advantage of having such a capability is, we can kind of eliminate, or mitigate, accidental placement and taking out of container packages, from containers, during the loading and unloading processes.  We are able to transmit a lot of information, not just about what the ID of the item is, but how the packages are doing during their containerization, not just while they’re being loaded and unloaded, but also during the shipment.

Russ:  The second step in identifying threats is being aware of your surroundings, a task that Professor Houck and his team are taking to new heights.

Houck:  And what I’ve done is I’ve placed waypoints for the helicopter to fly, and I can put a point as well as an altitude, and the helicopter will take and fly that pattern that I’ve selected through the computer.

Russ:  Once the chopper receives the data, all it takes is a simple push of the joystick, and away it goes.

Houck:  We can easily be two miles away from our helicopter and still have control of it.

Russ:  While the chopper is airborne, it can easily respond to a signal sent from a questionable container.  And as you can see here, provide port officials with a bird’s eye view of the situation.

Houck:  What we’re able to do is, take that video and digitize it, and broadcast it throughout the entire port over our wireless network.  So anybody in a security vehicle, or back at the security headquarters, they can all be viewing the video from these autonomous vehicles, as well as the video that’s in their vehicle.

Russ:  Making the jobs of those charged with keeping our country safe a little bit easier.