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ORINCON Demos “Pot-buster” Technology to Detect Appalachia’s “New Moonshine”

Posted on June 7, 2000

Spectral Camera Spots Marijuana Plants from High Elevations

By ORINCON Corporation International

San Diego, California — ORINCON Corp., the leading provider of innovative solutions and diversified intelligent systems technology for the information age, has announced that it will demonstrate, with the West Virginia State Police this summer, a new method for the automatic detection of marijuana crops using an aircraft-mounted sensor. This represents a tremendous advance over current visual inspection methods.

Law enforcement typically relies on ground raids, which are prone to human limitations. ORINCON’s spectral camera technology provides a much more thorough, rapid, and cost-effective means of truncating the burgeoning marijuana trade, since it can identify crops that are often cultivated in dense forests and other hard-to-reach areas.

Last summer, the West Virginia State Police allowed ORINCON to test the ability of hyperspectral optical technology to locate crops of marijuana. Given the success of that test, ORINCON has been invited to participate in this summer’s interdiction effort to further validate the technology and demonstrate a more advanced detection unit.

The tests will be conducted in an area of the country where the illegal cultivation of marijuana has exploded over the past few decades, eclipsing the region’s traditional illegal commodity, “moonshine.” Approximately 40 percent of the nation’s marijuana plants come from West Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, causing local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to proclaim this 65-county region the Appalachian High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. The local marijuana is high in THC (Tetra Hydro Cannabinol) content, the psychoactive substance that is being traded for cocaine and “crystal meth,” which brings in societal problems associated with more urban areas.

Based on a Hyperspectral Sensor System, which ORINCON developed with Rancho Bernardo, Calif.-based Surface Optics Corporation, the new “pot-buster” camera can detect marijuana plants from an elevation of 5,000 feet, and from several hundred yards on the ground, against a backdrop of heavy vegetation. This sophisticated technology can even differentiate a marijuana plant from hemp, a similar, but legal plant used to make rope and clothing. This technology can also be used to detect environmental pollution.

“We have developed powerful software techniques and digitally enhanced high-resolution images to provide law enforcement officials and environmental agencies with an edge,” said Dr. Dan Alspach, President and CEO of ORINCON. “This is a sophisticated, clever tool that has far-reaching uses. We plan to use our expertise in digital signal processing and data fusion to further enhance the capability of this system.”

The Hyperspectral Sensor System works by breaking portions of the optical spectrum into as many as 30 unique colors at a rate of 30 times per second. First, the instrument quantifies the spectral energy in each image and then uses this to build a matched filter “tuned” to the specific target. For marijuana detection, the image is processed further to yield a clear feature identification of the illegal activity.

Preliminary tests indicate that the same techniques used for detecting local marijuana crops may also be appropriate for identifying coca, opium poppy fields, and various types of pollution, including oil spills and acid mine drainage. ORINCON plans to offer this technology through an imaging analysis service available to federal, state, and local government agencies around the world.


ORINCON, founded in 1973, is the leading provider of innovative solutions and diversified intelligent systems technology for the information age. For over two decades, ORINCON has helped solve complex defense challenges by developing and enhancing systems and technologies involving signals, images, information, and computers. The company’s engineering expertise and diverse portfolio of expert capabilities and reusable software is widely recognized within the defense sector.

Company technologies include data fusion, data mining, database tools, expert systems, image processing, intelligent agents, Internet tools, neural networks, signal processing, and software development tools. These technologies are now being applied to new markets such as transportation, life sciences, machinery monitoring, e-commerce, and financial services, in addition to their tradition defense applications. The company is headquartered in San Diego, Calif. For further information on ORINCON, visit the company website at

Copyright © 2000, ORINCON Corporation International. All rights reserved.

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