The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has completed the emergency test deployment for its vehicle-mounted radioactive threat detection system in Washington, D.C.
Starting in July 2016, the seven-month test deployment was conducted under DARPA’s SIGMA programme, which aims to prevent attacks related to radiological ‘dirty bombs’ and other nuclear threats.
As part of the project, a fleet of D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services ambulances was equipped with nuclear and radiological detectors developed by DARPA.
The detectors provide the first ever dynamic, real-time map of background radiation levels across the US city, as well as recognise any unusual spikes that could indicate a threat.
DARPA programme manager Vincent Tang said: “D.C. Fire and EMS was an invaluable partner and testbed for SIGMA’s vehicle-scale detectors.
“The data gathered during the D.C. deployment are helping to further fine-tune the SIGMA system for potential deployment in major cities across the country and for emergency use by active-duty military units and National Guard civil support teams.”
Emergency vehicles equipped with radiation detectors offer an effective means of achieving a large-scale scan for radiological risks.
The test deployment saw the installation of up to 73 large detectors on emergency vehicles, which logged more than 100,000 hours of detector operation covering more than 150,000 miles,
The vehicles are said to have identified thousands of radiation sources in real-time.
SIGMA detectors can be used to easily distinguish between benign and threatening sources, as well as offer detailed background radiation maps.
The deployment also facilitated the testing and refining of the system's wireless data fusion capabilities, which constantly fed data about vehicle location and radiation to a central command post.
Image: Fleet of D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services ambulances equipped with DARPA’s nuclear and radiological detectors.