FLIR Systems has secured a contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the US to develop a fabric that will protect personnel from chemical and emerging biological threats.

The contract was awarded as part of the DARPA’s Personalized Protective Biosystems (PPB) programme that seeks to reduce the weight of the current personal protective equipment (PPE).

FLIR and other partners will work to develop a prototype fabric material that can be incorporated into protective suits, boots, gloves and eye protection devices.

The contract, which can be worth up to $20.5m, includes a two-year base period, two-year first option and one-year final option period. Initial funding of $11.2m has already been made available with the company.

FLIR plans to carry out all development work at its facilities in Pittsburgh, US.

Once complete, the government laboratories will begin testing the prototype fabric material.

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The introduction of the new fabric will benefit soldiers, as well as medical experts and healthcare workers.

FLIR vice-president and Sensor Systems business general manager Mark Stock said: “With lives at stake, future operators wearing PPB suits will gain a major edge in staying protected from toxic chemicals and emerging biological threats such as dangerous viruses.

“We’re honoured DARPA has chosen us to lead this extraordinary and highly innovative effort to develop first-of-its-kind protective fabrics for our nation’s warfighters, health and public safety officials.”

Founded in 1978, FLIR Systems focuses on delivering intelligent sensing solutions for defence and industrial applications.

In January, the company won a contract to support US Army robot programmes.