Teledyne FLIR to Develop Wearable Chemical Detector

By Mandy Mayfield

Teledyne FLIR concept

The Pentagon is contracting with industry to develop a “mass-wearable” device for U.S. troops that will better protect them from chemical and biological threats on the battlefield.

In June, Teledyne FLIR announced the Defense Department had awarded the firm a contract worth $4 million to develop a small, lightweight chemical sensor intended to be worn by soldiers and Marines.

Under the Compact Vapor Chemical Agent Detection, or CVCAD program, the company will produce a unique dual-sensor device that detects chemical warfare agents, toxic chemicals, flammable gases, and enriched or depleted oxygen levels that can indicate an explosive atmosphere, according to Teledyne FLIR.

The device can “tell a specific soldier that they’re in a horrible environment of some kind, be it something that can kill them quickly, like a chemical warfare agent, or an environment that’s explosive … that might be dangerous,” said David Cullin, vice president of global business development for Teledyne FLIR’s detection sector.

The technology will let troops know if it is safe to breathe or fire a weapon.

In addition to being used as a soldier-worn device, it will also be integrated onto unmanned platforms such as drones and ground robots, Cullin said.

As a soldier-worn system, size, weight and power considerations must be taken into account so as to not make it burdensome for troops to carry, Cullin noted during an interview. The company is aiming for the device to be approximately four inches long and one inch wide.

The five-year program is being funded and jointly managed by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Joint Science and Technology Office and the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical Biological and Radiological/Nuclear Defense. CVCAD is the fourth installment for the Pentagon’s Next-Generation Chemical Detector program, which is a series of efforts aimed at fielding a family of improved chemical detectors to the armed forces, according to the company. This is the third contract award Teledyne FLIR has received in the series.

The company is collaborating with a firm called NevadaNano to develop the sensor for its offering, Cullin said.

“We’re taking some of their micro-electromechanical systems … and doing some work on the chemistry and the physics of those chips so they specifically interact with the agents that we’re interested in looking at in very specific ways,” he said. “Once we get these chips optimized to respond to the materials we want to detect, then we’ll be working with algorithms to make sure that the sensor can give out the right kind of responses.”

Teledyne FLIR plans to employ artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies with the device to help distill information, he said.

Topics: Chem Bio Protection, CBRN

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