DARPA Tests Dirty-Bomb Hunting Ambulances

First Responder Network Authority

AA Font size + Print

You may not have known it, but some D.C. ambulances were searching for radiation while they drove.

For the past seven months, some Washington, D.C., ambulances have been doing double duty: simultaneously responding to emergencies and scanning the city for nuclear threats.

A Pentagon research program aiming to detect “dirty bombs” and nuclear threats recently outfitted fire and emergency medical services ambulances with radiological detectors they used to draw out a map of radiation levels in the city. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Activity’s nuclear threat detection program, called SIGMA, wrapped up testing last month.

In its search for radiological phenomena, DARPA installed about 73 detectors on the ambulances, which travel across the city each day responding to medical and fire emergencies. The detectors gathered about 100,000 hours of data and traveled a total of about 150,000 miles.

The detectors were plugged into the ambulance and reported back to DARPA in real time, so ambulance operators didn’t need any training.

DARPA may refine the system so it can eventually be deployed in other cities across the country, including to active duty military units and National Guard civil support teams, according to program manager Vincent Tang. The program may also consider incorporating other vehicles in addition to ambulances.

The DARPA program has developed another radiation detector model the size of a smartphone; one day in October, the agency asked about 1,000 volunteers to carry them around the National Mall.

The detection systems may be transitioned to state, local and federal groups as early as this year.

Close [ x ] More from DefenseOne

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from DefenseOne.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

  • Top 5 Findings: Security of Internet of Things To Be Mission-Critical

    As federal agencies increasingly leverage these capabilities, government security stakeholders now must manage and secure a growing number of devices, including those being used remotely at the “edge” of networks in a variety of locations. With such security concerns in mind, Government Business Council undertook an indepth research study of federal government leaders in January 2017. Here are five of the key takeaways below which, taken together, paint a portrait of a government that is increasingly cognizant and concerned for the future security of IoT.

  • Coordinating Incident Response on Posts, Camps and Stations

    Effective incident response on posts, camps, and stations is an increasingly complex challenge. An effective response calls for seamless conversations between multiple stakeholders on the base and beyond its borders with civilian law enforcement and emergency services personnel. This whitepaper discusses what a modern dispatch solution looks like -- one that brings together diverse channels and media, simplifies the dispatch environment and addresses technical integration challenges to ensure next generation safety and response on Department of Defense posts, camps and stations.

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.