DARPA Tests Advanced Chemical Sensors

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June 19, 2019 | Originally published by Date Line: June 19 on

Next-generation algorithms and sensors for detecting chemical threats put through their paces in SIGMA+ program.  May hold promise for military use in development of large region scale chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive threat threat detection networks.

DARPA’s SIGMA program, which began in 2014, has demonstrated a city-scale capability for detecting radiological and nuclear threats that is now being operationally deployed. DARPA is building off this work with the SIGMA+ initiative that is focused on providing city- to region-scale detection capabilities across the full chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive threat space.

DARPA initiated a SIGMA+ pilot study last year known as ChemSIGMA to provide initial data and insights into how new chemical sensors using the existing SIGMA network would function. The chemical sensor package incorporates a chemical sensor, wind sensor and communications board into a weatherproof housing. Sensors report wind readings and real-time chemical information to a central cloud-hosted suite of fusion algorithms.

“The algorithms were developed using a custom simulation engine that fuses multiple detector inputs,” said Anne Fischer, program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office. “We built the algorithms based on simulant releases in a large metropolitan area – so we took existing data to build the algorithms for this network framework. With this network, we”re able to use just the chemical sensor outputs and wind measurements to look at chemical threat dynamics in real time, how those chemical threats evolve over time, and threat concentration as it might move throughout an area.”

In the pilot study, DARPA researchers from MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Physical Sciences Inc., and Two Six Labs, built a small network of chemical sensor packages. In partnership with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the Marion County Health Department, DARPA’s performer teams deployed the network on-site at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in late April 2018.

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