Battelle to continue developing sensors and networking to detect biological weapons of mass destruction

April 19, 2021
SIGMA+ to develop detectors and advanced intelligence to detect minute traces of various substances related to weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. military researchers are turning to sensor data analysts at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, to develop an advanced networked sensor to detect and identify biological weapons of mass destruction.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., announced an $8.5 million order to Battelle on Thursday for the second phase the SIGMA+ project to develop new sensors and networks that would alert authorities to chemical, biological, and explosives threats.

SIGMA+ seeks to develop sensitive detectors and advanced intelligence analytics to detect minute traces of various substances related to weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The project uses a common networking infrastructure and mobile sensing strategy.

The SIGMA+ chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive (CBRNE) detection networking would be scalable to cover a major metropolitan city and its surrounding region.

Related: Industry asked for technologies to detect and counter chemical and biological weapons

The project's second phase focuses on network development, analytics and integration. the first phase focused on developing sensors for chemicals, explosives, and biological agents.

The original DARPA SIGMA project, begun in 2013, sought to apply Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to potential networks of thousands of low-cost weapons sensors linked throughout U.S. cities by WiFi and cellular phone systems to a cloud-based networking backbone.

The project also sought to develop the networking infrastructure to connect as many as 10,000 of these small radiation-detection sensors, as well as a cloud-computing infrastructure to analyze streaming spectroscopic data automatically from these sensors in real-time. Then the project sought to store many billions of these spectra for spatiotemporal and forensic analyses in an easily retrievable manner.

The SIGMA program worked to develop enabling technologies in data storage, ingestion, and networking; and component capabilities to detect weapons of mass destruction using low-cost, high-capability sensors, automated detection algorithms, and real-time alerts of potential weapons of mass destruction threats.

Related: Researchers eye new biological sensors to detect underground objects like buried chemicals and weapons

DARPA experts have worked with industry to develop new software and network infrastructure that can ingest, analyze, and store data for thousands of spectroscopic sensors connected with bidirectional communications and sensor fusion algorithms that run in real-time with minimal latency.

This sensor network is intended to manage inventory and device status; display device status, sensor output, and location in real-time; query recent historical data; store several years of sensor data; simulate thousands of sensors to replay historical sensor data; carry out security and encryption; and deploy on several commercial cloud infrastructures.

On this order Battelle will do the work in Columbus, Ohio, and should be finished by September 2023. For more information contact Battelle Memorial Institute online at, or DARPA at

About the Author

John Keller | Editor-in-Chief

John Keller is the Editor-in-Chief, Military & Aerospace Electronics Magazine--provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronics and optoelectronic technologies in military, space and commercial aviation applications. John has been a member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since 1989 and chief editor since 1995.

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