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Emerging Tech

An early-warning system for WMDs

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants to create a real-time detection system to sniff out “minute traces” of chemical, biological, nuclear or other potential threats, according to an agency announcement.

DARPA expects rapid advancements in sensing technology and analytical abilities will help make the effort, called SIGMA+, a reality, according to Vincent Tang, the project’s program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office.

“The goal of SIGMA+ is to develop and demonstrate a real-time, persistent CBRNE early detection system by leveraging advances in sensing, data fusion, analytics, and social and behavioral modeling to address a spectrum of threats,” Tang said in a statement. CBRNE stands for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives threats.

The program would work on the development of the sensors needed to make this a reality, but also leverage insights gained from its parent program, SIGMA, which studies ways to improve detection and deterrence of nuclear terrorism.

The sensors developed in SIGMA+ are envisioned as being “long-range” capable of “identify bomb-making safe houses in large urban areas, for example,” DARPA explained. It could also help in the detection of pandemics.

A Broad Agency Announcement is expected to be released for phase one of the program in March. DARPA will host a industry event to discuss the initiative on March 7 in Arlington, Va.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

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Reader Comments

Tue, Feb 27, 2018

so fire alarms, laundry detergent, mouth wash, hydroxide, and enriched flour? really they want to know where the trace elements are. Did someone actually bother to put down on paper what they were researching?

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