Homeland Security officials ask industry to develop airborne sensor to find terrorist nuclear-radioactive bombs

WASHINGTON, 8 June 2012. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Washington is asking industry to develop an airborne sensor able to detect and pinpoint nuclear or radioactive terrorist bombs before they go off. The sensor should be able to determine quickly if a radiological or nuclear source is present while flying over cities, oceans, and the countryside.

The DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) issued a broad agency announcement Tuesday (HSHQDC-12-R-00065) for the Airborne Radiological Enhanced-sensor System (ARES) program to find improved ways to detect and localize radiological sources from the air.

The solicitation specifically asks industry to develop helicopter-mounted sensors, as well as software algorithms that act on multisensor data for improved detection of packages containing nuclear and radioactive materials. The idea is to foil terrorist attempts to detonate nuclear or radioactive bombs in areas that would put large numbers of people or sensitive installations in jeopardy.

The ARES program will complement a previous DHS effort to develop a prototype Stand-Off Radiation Detection System (SORDS) to detect nuclear or radioactive bombs from land vehicles. SORDS focused gamma-ray imaging technologies.

The ARES program focuses on airborne nuclear and radioactive detection system that is sensitive, provides a low false alarm rate in a complex and changing environment in which naturally occurring radioactive material is present. The ARES system should produce automated real-time results, and identify the type and location of nuclear or radioactive sources at typical helicopter flight altitudes and speeds.

Today's aerial sensor technology, DHS researchers point out, does a poor job of compensating for changing background that includes naturally occurring radioactive material, and have limited capability to localize sources in real-time.

The ARES program seeks sensors with improved sensitivity to detect and localize nuclear and radioactive sources, and the ability to suppress false alarms from enhanced naturally occurring radiation with improved situational awareness or additional sensors.

Algorithms developed in the ARES program should provide information in real time during flight, and use several different sensors for enhanced detection, localization, and identification of moving and static nuclear and radioactive sources.

The sensor component of the ARES program will have three phases -- a nine-month phase that focuses on sensor hardware and size; a yearlong phase to build a prototype system; and another yearlong phase to demonstrate the system.

The algorithm component of the ARES program will have four phases -- a six-month phase for trade studies and simulations; a second six-month phase for initial coding; a yearlong phase to optimize algorithms; and a nine-month phase to demonstrate the technology.

Companies interested should submit proposals no later than 20 July 2012 by e-mail to atdbaa12-2proposals@hq.dhs.gov. E-mail questions or concerns to atdbaa12-2questions@hq.dhs.gov.

More information is online at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/DHS/OCPO/DHS-OCPO/HSHQDC-12-R-00065/listing.html.

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