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The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded SRI International an $11.6 million (€10.3 million) multi-year contract to develop advanced chemical sensors that can support detection of chemical threats in complex urban environments.

The system, called Localization and Characterization of Chemical Anomalies in Urban Settings (LOCCUS), will be developed under DARPA’s SIGMA+ programme and is to be designed for deployment on vehicles that can move through a city to detect trace levels of precursors – chemicals that are used to make weapons of mass destruction such as chemical weapons and explosives.

LOCCUS will combine two orthogonal high-performance chemical detection technologies to surpass the sensing capabilities currently possible with a single sensing approach,” explained SRI Senior Program Manager and LOCCUS Principal Investigator, Dr Ashish Chaudhary. “This high-sensitivity, high-endurance detection capability will demonstrate scalability, longevity and cost-effectiveness.”

SRI will lead a collaborative effort with subcontractors Block MEMS, Signature Science, and Two Six Labs. SRI’s micro mass spectrometer technology will enable the system to conduct two-dimensional chemical mapping as the vehicle drives through an area, by leveraging point sensing to analyse the chemical composition of ambient air. Block MEMS’ technology will leverage an eye-safe laser capability to generate chemical maps via standoff sensing in a complex, three-dimensional urban topography.

SRI is committed to developing high-impact solutions to critical problems related to national security, and this programme is at the heart of our dedication to continue those strides,” commented SRI’s Advanced Technology and Systems Division President, Scott Seaton. “We greatly appreciate DARPA’s confidence in our technologies and operational approach.”

DARPA’s LOCCUS programme seeks to provide mobile early-warning capabilities for chemical detection in complex urban environments. (Photo: SRI International)

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