Freedom Tower Case Study

LowCam® Under-Vehicle Inspection Solution Helps New York Rebuild The American Spirit

After the attacks that brought down the World Trade Center’s North and South towers on September 11, 2001, there was never any question that New York and the nation would rebuild. Still, the speed with which it happened was startling.

By the beginning of 2002, plans for the rebirth of the iconic 16-acre site in lower Manhattan were already underway. Fittingly, on July 4, 2004 a 20-ton granite cornerstone was lowered in place. After a twenty-two month delay, construction officially began April 27, 2006.

Since the groundbreaking, the redevelopment at ground zero has been one of the highest-profile construction projects in America, if not the world. Those responsible for the rebuilding, especially officials with the New York/New Jersey Port Authority (NYNJPA) and the New York Police Department (NYPD), have spared no expense in order to make it the most secure and well-protected construction site as well.

System proves resiliency during World Trade Center construction.

Once completed, the new World Trade Center campus will feature seven buildings dedicated to commercial, office and retail space; an advanced transportation hub; performing arts center; and commemorative memorials to the September 11th tragedy. The centerpiece of the project is a majestically soaring skyscraper, officially known as One World Trade Center, but more appropriately named Freedom Tower. At 1,776 feet and 104 floors, the tower, officially scheduled to open in 2014, is the tallest building in the Western hemisphere, featuring three and a half million square feet of prime retail and office space.

Working with the NYNJPA, NYPD officials developed an extensive security plan to safeguard the site and its 10,000 workers during construction. The plan, which included the extensive use of concrete bollards, barriers, sally ports and advanced inspection and imaging technology, cost an estimated $40 million.2 The security plan called for limiting access to four strategic entry points; only one of which is open to construction vehicle traffic.

“The reason for that is we want to keep a car bomb off the site,” former NYPD Deputy Commissioner Richard Daddario said in a 2013 interview with the CBS New York local affiliate**.

Currently, the construction entrance is located at the intersection of Barclay and Washington streets. A critical tool in helping to keep would-be vehicular attackers from penetrating the perimeter is an advanced under-vehicle inspection system (UVIS) provided by Advanced Detection Technology of Mooresville, NC.

Freedom Towers Construction Entrance

The 16-acre site has one construction vehicle entrance, at Barclay and Washington streets.
“The logistics planning, operations control, and monitoring that go into the everyday workings of this enormous construction project are almost unimaginable, as construction workers busily unload thousands of tons of material from hundreds of trucks that visit the site every 24 hours.”
World Trade Center Progress newsletter, June 2011*

Unique UVIS with Unique Capabilities

The LowCam VI108 is a real-time video imaging system that provides security personnel a detailed view of the underside of every vehicle passing through the heavily guarded construction entrance checkpoint. As the vehicle passes over the inspection ramp the cameras, positioned at different heights and angles, provide a virtual three-dimensional view of the entire undercarriage.

The LowCam VI108 monitor is located inside the guardhouse, providing a safe standoff position for security personnel who can view the streaming footage in real-time or pause, rewind and zoom for any areas in question. The system has the capacity to store up to 75,000 vehicle records.  

Tough and Fast—Typical New York

Freedom Towers Construction“We have been impressed with the strength and durability of the LowCam UVIS. Our daily traffic includes full dump trucks, front loaders, cement trucks and other heavy equipment, and the LowCam stands up to them all.”

A critical reason security officials selected the LowCam VI108 was the system’s ability to stand up under the constant daily pounding at the massive construction site. When completed, Freedom Tower will contain more than 40,000 metric tons of structural steel and 150,000 cubic meters of concrete3—about 400,000 tons. Each fully loaded concrete truck can weigh as much as 18 tons per axle.

The imaging unit of the VI108 is made of welded aircraft-grade aluminum and is capable of withstanding loads of 20 tons per axle. The use of compact video cameras, as opposed to line- or area-scan cameras, significantly reduces the surface area of the lens, making it nearly indestructible. The LowCam VI108 was first deployed on site on in 2008 and has remained on the job ever since.

At the same time, it was important that the nearly $15 billion construction project remain on schedule. So the process of screening each individual concrete, delivery and dump truck that enters the site must be fast without sacrificing safety. As many as a hundred vehicles or more visit the construction site each day. Any bottlenecks not only stall traffic in and out of the job site, it can easily affect public traffic on Barclay and Washington Streets as well. 

Here again, the LowCam prove to be the best possible choice. The system enables security personnel to view undercarriage details in real-time, as the vehicle drives over the imaging unit at speeds up to ten miles per hour.

Alternative systems using line- and area-scan technology work by producing thousands of individual static shots that must be stitched together in order to generate a final view. For Port Authority officials, the real-time video capability of the LowCam system was important.

Portability Provides Added Bonus

As construction on the site progressed, in 2012 it became necessary for security officials to relocate the construction entrance. In a typical UVIS installation using static scan technology, the disassembly and re-assembly of the system would normally take at least two hours and multiple individuals. During this time, of course, the entrance would be closed to traffic. Alternatively, security officials could purchase multiple systems but only use one at a time.

The LowCam gave NYPD and NYNJPA personnel a better solution. Because the system uses compact video optics, the footprint of the imaging unit is small and light, weighing just 35 pounds. From start to finish, the entire solution can be picked-up and re-deployed by one person in about three minutes.  

American-Made and New York-Strong

For the engineers at Advanced Detection, the opportunity to support the rebuilding of the World Trade Center has provided a sense of closure. The company was founded by engineer and U.S. Army veteran Dale Hiatt in the days following the 9/11 attacks.

“To say I was personally and emotionally invested in helping to protect the WTC construction site is an under-statement. To be a part of the rebuilding effort was very much a homecoming for all of us at Advanced Detection,” Hiatt said.

With Freedom Tower nearing completion, work on Two World Trade Center, Three World Trade Center and the Transportation Hub continues. Engineers at Advanced Detection expect their LowCam UVIS family of solutions to play a long-term role in safeguarding the site. As for officials with the NYNJPA and NYPD, it is only fitting that the UVIS system they rely upon is every bit as tough and resilient as the American dream.


Managing Deliveries and Construction Traffic at the WTC; World Trade Center Progress newsletter; June 2011

NYPD Says Security Top Priority as Plans Made for World trade Center; CBS News local New York Affiliate; May 17, 2013 3 Shaping Up: 10 Engineering and Design Facts about One World Trade Center; Scientific American; September 9, 2011