FORT BELVOIR, Va., 1 May 2013. The U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) at Fort Belvoir, Va., is looking to Energy Research Co. (ERCo) of Plainfield, N.J., for the company's laser technology to detect explosives from standoff ranges.
DTRA officials say ERCo's proprietary Laser Induced Acoustics (LIA) technology has the potential to counter the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) -- the dominant method used by America's enemies to attack military installations and personnel, as well as civilian targets -- from safe distances.
DTRA officials say ERCo's LIA electro-optics technology can help fill a need for counter-IED sensors that work reliably at standoff distances, rather than current technologies that require close-in inspection of objects for explosive trace detection, which can place friendly personnel in harm's way.
DTRA experts announced their intention last week to award a sole-source contract to ERCo for the Laser induced Acoustic Sensor for Standoff Detection of Explosives program. LIA technology is a revolutionary approach to detection of trace chemicals by interrogating a suspected item, then listening for the acoustic signatures of that compound, DTRA officials say.
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DTRA is the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) official combat support agency for countering weapons of mass destruction, and addresses chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive threats, including IEDs.
DTRA previously awarded a research contract to ERCo to demonstrate LIA technology to distances between 15 and 25 meters with a system that weighed nearly 1,000 pounds. Now DTRA wants ERCo to develop two LIA prototypes using orthogonal laser-based explosive sensing technology to detect explosive residue on the exteriors of suspected IEDs, vehicle-borne IEDs, and other structures.
ERCo will design one prototype for a tripod-type mount for basic entry security applications, while the other will be mounted on a robotic system. These prototypes are code-named Sherlock and Watson. ERCo experts also will develop advanced signal processing and sensor fusion technologies for the prototypes.
DTRA officials say ERCo designers reduce the size of the systems dramatically from the original 1,000-pound experiment, as well as refine the LIA system's algorithms for detecting explosives from a distance. The DTRA contract will be for one year and will be worth about $800,000, DTRA officials say.