When U.S. soldiers in Iraq found Saddam Hussein hiding in his “spider hole,”
they were seconds away from throwing a grenade into the underground lair. Without the ability to see into the hole to assess Hussein’s intentions, the soldiers might have killed the former dictator instead of capturing him to stand trial. Now, with help from SATOP, a Texas entrepreneur has perfected a device that will allow soldiers to peer into perilous situations without putting themselves in the line of fire.
Sgt. George T. Gilmer, a law enforcement veteran with more than 20 years of experience, began developing his invention three years ago for use by police departments. Having served on both the narcotics and SWAT teams, Gilmer knew that one of the most dangerous situations faced by police officers is when they must find a hidden suspect.
“When police officers are searching for a suspect, they often end up sticking their necks out – literally,” Gilmer says. “I wanted to give my fellow police officers a device that would let them see into that next room without putting themselves in danger.”
Gilmer worked on his device for two years before he had a final product: an infrared/color surveillance camera, mounted on a telescopic pole. The telescopic pole, built of lightweight aluminum and fiberglass, extends to a length of five and a half feet and can “break and rake” a window. Police officers view the camera images from a safe distance on a hand-held thin film transistor LCD color monitor. Because of the tactical advantage that his invention would provide to police officers, Gilmer named it “TacView.”
Out of the starting box, TacView was a success. From his headquarters in Conroe, TX, Gilmer has distributed nearly 40 TacViews to state, federal and local law enforcement agencies. The device has been used in numerous real life SWAT call outs, saving at least one life. TacView also helped in the discovery of a dangerous underground methamphetamine lab.
In order to make TacView as durable as possible, Gilmer decided to give the monitor additional protection by adhering a piece of automobile windshield glass to it. A modest idea, but Gilmer found it difficult to execute.
A few days after adhering the glass to the monitor, the glass would either fall off or could be pulled loose with little effort. He discovered that the monitor is made of polypropylene plastic, which is notorious for resisting adhesives.
Fortunately, Gilmer heard about SATOP during a University of Houston Small Business Development Center network (SBDC) event. The SBDC covers a 32-county area in southeast Texas with 14 business consulting and training centers, and is the largest marketer of SATOP’s services in Texas. “SATOP is a wonderful resource for us to promote to our clients and the business community,” said Roberta Skebo, Director of the Metropolitan Center at the SBDC.
For Gilmer’s Request for Technical Assistance, SATOP brought in Joe Jacoby, an engineer with United Space Alliance. Jacoby’s research located an adhesive made by 3M that seemed to fit Gilmer’s requirements.
The recommended adhesive is strong enough to mount large mirrors on casino ceilings in Las Vegas, so Gilmer felt confident it would meet his needs. He was not disappointed – the adhesive successfully bonded the windshield glass to the TacView monitor.
Should he run into any other technical issues while preparing TacView for the military market, Gilmer says he would again contact SATOP. “My experience with SATOP was fantastic,” he said. “If I ever face another technical question that seems to be impossible to solve, I know exactly who I’m going to call - SATOP.”