Radiation detection pioneer Kromek is developing a piece of tech to protect the public against biological attacks as part of a new US contract.
The Sedgefield firm is already working with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), which is part of the US Department of Defense, to supply handheld ‘dirty bomb’ detectors. But this deal – worth $1.99m (£1.57m) – is the first first biological threat-detection contract it has secured with the department. The deal will see Kromek develop a proof-of-concept for a vehicle-mounted piece of kit that can identify the pathogen used in attacks and protect the public from terrorist threats. Developing the equipment will allow defence agencies to respond more quickly to potential attacks, by reducing the time it takes to identify the weapons.
Kromek’s 12-month contract is part of Darpa’s wider Sigma+ initiative, which has been launched to improve the agency’s existing network for detecting illicit radioactive and nuclear materials. The system will be used to alert authorities to chemical, biological, and explosives threats. Dr Arnab Basu, chief executive officer of Kromek, said: “As the Sigma programme has begun transitioning to the US Department of Homeland Security, Darpa is turning its focus to add the next generation of biological-threat detection systems. “We are delighted to be awarded this additional contract from Darpa, as it expands our relationship with them and broadens our expertise into biological threat detection, adding to our radiological and nuclear threat detection capabilities.”
Phase one of the Sigma+ programme focuses on developing new sensors for dangerous weaponsied agents. Phase two will then look to develop a network and improve the programme’s analytics. If Kromek’s new technology proves successful Darpa could extend the contract for a number of years so that a fully deployable system can be built. The company was awarded the new contract after its success providing Darpa with its nuclear-threat detection kits, which are part of its D3S product range. In March Darpa awarded Kromek with a $1.6m contract extension for its “dirty bomb” detectors.