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Entrepreneurs Guarding the Homeland

Homeland security isn't the province of big federal contractors. Small businesses play a big role in protecting the country. Check out four of those companies. Roll over the numbers below to take a closer look.


You may think homeland security is the province of big federal contractors. But small businesses are crucial to protecting the country from a variety of threats on the home front, including drug runners on the Mexican border and cyberterrorists halfway around the world. Here’s a look at four of those companies.


All quiet on the southern front

The Marine Unit of the texas Highway patrol helps prevent illegal crossings along the 1,885-mile-long rio Grande, which separates the U.s. and Mexico. in 2010, in response to increased drug violence on the border, the Highway patrol commissioned six 34-foot armored craft, for an average of $580,000 each, from yellowfin yachts of sarasota, florida. Each boat features multiple machine-gun mounts shielded by antiballistic panels, a hull covered with Kevlar laminate, and seats that absorb shock to reduce fatigue on crews operating in rough water. the speedy craft can travel up to 60 knots, courtesy of three 300-horsepower outboard motors. Former competitive powerboat racer Wylie Nagler founded Yellowfin Yachts in 1998, shortly after selling his first company, Back Country Powerboats. Today, Yellowfin is known primarily for its fishing skiffs and yachts, which its 125 employees manufacture in a 130,000-square-foot facility in Sarasota. “When I founded Yellowfin, I knew I could fill a void in the market by designing a boat with exceptional fishing features, then using my racing background to make it go fast,” Nagler says.


Cybersecurity: the next generation

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recently cited cybersecurity as a main priority for what she called DHS 3.0. More than 60 government agencies use security software made by Fireeye of Milpitas, California, to thwart advanced threats often missed by firewalls and virus programs, including botnet attacks, which are launched from networks of computers infected with malware. Once it identifies a potential threat, Fireeye removes the suspicious file to a virtual location, runs it, and quar- antines or destroys it. Ashar Aziz founded Fireeye in 2004, two years after selling his data virtualization company, Terraspring, to Sun Microsystems. Today, Fireeye, which has received fund- ing from In-Q-Tel, the nonprofit invest- ment arm of the U.S. intelligence community, has more than 500 employ- ees and 1,500 government and corpo- rate clients, including the Department of Defense and Sallie Mae. Fireeye has nine offices worldwide, including loca- tions in Dubai, Seoul, and Buenos Aires.


X-ray vision in your hand

Stationary microwave scanners used to screen bags and passengers at airports are often impractical in the field. Walleye Technologies of lincoln, Massachusetts, has created a portable handheld scanner that lets security personnel see through opaque surfaces, including clothing, packages, and walls. The battery-operated device, which uses millimeter wave imaging technology, can capture, store, analyze, and transmit images to computers via USB drive, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi. Christopher Adams and Dave Holbrook co-founded Walleye in 2006 and spent six years developing an affordable product. Typically, millimeter wave lenses are made using a complex mix- ture of materials and can cost as much as $20,000 to produce. Holbrook used his expertise as an optical engineer to design a plastic lens that costs $20 to make. The six-employee company received a cash infusion from In-Q-Tel in March 2012 and that fall started selling its scanners for $14,995 each. Several companies and government agencies in the U.S. and abroad are testing or using the devices.


Airborne first responders

When disaster hits, emergency teams need a bird’s-eye view of the situation on the ground. Avwatch of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, operates a fleet of five airplanes and one helicopter equipped with electro-optical, infrared, or high- definition cameras that stream live video to emergency responders on the ground. responders can speak directly to the pilots and maneuver the cam- eras remotely from laptops, tablets, or smartphones using Avwatch software. Clients, which include the Coast guard, the National guard, and the Air Force, can also retrofit their own aircraft with the Avwatch system. Chris Kluckhuhn, a former Coast guard helicopter pilot, started Avwatch in 2008 after graduat- ing from the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security. Two years later, the com- pany got its first big break when BP tapped it to help locate oil slicks over the gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon spill. During Hurricane Irene, Avwatch, which has 10 employees, coordinated with multiple local, state, and federal agencies, delivering photos of affected areas in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts to responders within minutes of the storm’s passing.


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