SAIC to develop explosives sensor for DARPA

Science Applications International Corp. will develop a sensor to help troops in the battlefield detect explosives and chemical or biological weapons under a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency contract potentially worth $18 million.

The award from the agency's Defense Sciences Office calls for SAIC to design and develop a sensor inspired by a canine's olfactory system, or sense of smell.

SAIC will model, design and develop the sensor, which will include subsystems for air and odor intake, detection using olfactory receptors, signal transduction, and pattern recognition to identify odors. The sensor could help protect U.S. forces in war zones by detecting explosives and chemical or biological weapons.

By simulating all components of the canine sense of smell, a revolutionary detection capability could be created that detects and identifies thousands of chemicals with precision and high sensitivity, SAIC officials said.

The goal of DARPA's RealNose program is to use technology to create a breakthrough detection system with capabilities beyond that of the dog, they said.

"There is a critical need for sensitive detection and accurate identification of chemicals and mixtures of chemicals, such as explosives and chemical weapons that threaten our deployed troops," said John Fratamico, SAIC senior vice president and business unit general manager. "This is a challenging project at the interface between biology and chemistry, and we look forward to making this dramatic new technology a reality," he said.

The contract has a 15-month base period, one six-month option and a single one-year option. The work will be performed primarily in San Diego and is expected to be completed by December 2010.

SAIC, of San Diego, ranks No. 5 on Washington Technology's 2008 Top 100 list of the largest federal government prime contractors.

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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