Redstone Arsenal testing facial recognition system at gates

Redstone Arsenal

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. — Workers entering Redstone Arsenal will have a new option for gaining access to the installation as of Monday: Facial recognition.

Starting March 15, Gates 1 and 9 will have lanes dedicated to drivers who want to use facial recognition to gain access to the Arsenal.

Lane 3 at Gate 1 and lanes 3 and 4 at Gate 9 will be for single-occupancy vehicles to use the technology, which the Arsenal is testing as a pilot program for the Department of the Army.

Anyone who has daily access to the Arsenal and is in the Defense Manpower Data Center database has a photo on file that will be used for authorization, Garrison Director of Operations Ron Thomas said in a town hall meeting Thursday morning.

“The photo in the database will be checked against data taken by sensors targeting the designated lanes,” Thomas said.

If for whatever reason the system doesn’t recognize your face, Mellor says to be prepared to show the proper identification.

“It does not take a photo of you,” Thomas said. “It scans your facial features, identifies critical points — perhaps distance between the center of the eyes, distance from the nose to the chin, distance from the ears to the nose or the eyes — it runs through an algorithm and creates data that can go back and challenge our DMDC database, where the photo is. When it finds enough confirming points, it will pull up your information on our screen, you’ll get a green arrow and you’ll be able to proceed.”

Drivers who use the lanes should not wear hats or anything above their shoulders that could obscure their facial features, Thomas said. Driving glasses are an exception. He also recommended people not have anything dangling from their rearview mirror or on the dashboard that could block the sensor.

“What we have seen is if you have a mask on, a big cowboy hat on, it doesn’t allow the censors to see the 14 points of your face,” Mellor said.

He also asked that people using the system should talk with gate guards if they encounter any issues getting access. Feedback about what may be causing problems with the system will help program managers, he said.

“There’s a lot we’re going to learn on this so we appreciate the effort on your part to come in and help prove or disprove this system,” Thomas said. “And if nothing else, we’ll identify the shortcomings, get those in for updates, modernizations and make it a fully working, better program for you.”

Thomas said they are working with Marshall Space Flight Center to get those employees entered into the facial recognition system as well.

Garrison Commander Col. Glenn Mellor asked people to be patient with the testing.

“We think it’s going to allow you to get on the Arsenal a little quicker, but that’s yet to be determined,” Mellor said.

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