The Australian Department of Defence has announced the development of a sensor prototype that can detect harmful gases.

Named Canary Sensor, the protype has been developed by army staff cadet Oscar Fowler and can be applied for both military and civilian purposes.

The name has been drawn from the ancient practice of using a canary to alert miners in a mine shaft regarding the presence of toxic gases, especially carbon monoxide, reports Samara Kitchener.

If the canary was ill or dead, an alarm was raised to help vacate the mine shaft.

Fowler said: “I came up with a goal to develop a reliable device providing real-time threat mitigation for operators and planners, similar to the canaries used by miners in the past.”

The prototype of the sensor was tested earlier this year. It uses electrochemical sensors that will help identify harmful gases and vapours.

Additionally, it can be used remotely with drones and other similar technologies.

Fowler plans to develop the prototype to alert personnel using wearable technology.

With this, operational planners will be able to test the air before troops are deployed or to alert frontline soldiers.

He added that the technology can be used during natural disasters, chemical spills, or ruptured pipelines.

Royal Military College Duntroon Military Arts director colonel Chris Alder said: “This project has proved that ideas can come from every level in our force. We are passionate about empowering people to think creatively.”