DARPA awards three contracts to detect IEDs hidden in mud, meat, and dead animals

ARLINGTON, Va., 12 April 2013. Improvised explosive device (IED) experts at three research organizations are working to develop non-contact ways to detect explosives hidden in opaque media with high water content such as mud, meat, and animal carcasses in contracts awarded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in Arlington, Va.

Quasar Federal Systems in San Diego; the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz.; and BAE Systems in Arlington, Va., are working on the DARPA Methods for Explosive Detection at Standoff (MEDS) program to develop detection and imaging methods to find explosives embedded or packaged in mud or meat.

Quasar won a $1.8 million contract; University of Arizona won a $1.5 million contract; and BAE Systems won a $427,003 contract for the DARPA MEDS program. The contracts were announced in February, March, and April.

Because detection and imaging methods have not been developed or applied to this non-contact ways to detect explosives hidden in opaque media with high water content, DARPA scientists are asking the three organizations to develop a proof-of-concept program with emphasis on demonstration. Development of instruments for deployment in operational environments are not part of this program.

Essentially, DARPA scientists are asking the three organizations to find ways of detecting hidden explosives in much the same way that doctors detect breast cancer.

The DARPA MEDS program seeks is asking the three organizations find ways of rapidly detecting bulk explosives embedded within an opaque medium with high water content. This will preclude the use of trace detection methods and bulk methods where significant penetration into the medium is not possible, DARPA researchers say.

As an extra challenge in the MEDS program, DARPA scientists are asking the three organizations not to use ionizing radiation, other than possible employment of backscatter technology, in the MEDS program because of health concerns to military personnel and civilians.

DARPA is asking the three organizations to work on recognition of abnormalities in complex high-water-content media that can be performed with no physical contact with the surface of the host medium.

DARPA experts are interested in technologies such as mixed modality mechanisms that use electromagnetic indicators and acoustic vibration, x-rays, and non-ionizing detection methods. Approaches that rely on x-rays with minimal ionizing radiation exposure may be of potential interest.

For more information contact Quasar Federal Systems at www.quasarfs.com; the University of Arizona at www.arizona.edu; BAE Systems at www.baesystems.com; or DARPA at www.darpa.mil.

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