Sandia National Laboratories is reporting that during late June and early July its Rapidly Deployable Chemical Detection System (RDCDS), a chemical warfare monitor, was successfully tested close to McAfee Stadium, the home of Oakland A’s. The tricky part is to sort through all kinds of flying molecules–from popcorn smell to regurgitated beer byproducts–by the mobile system:
RDCDS is designed to provide broad, high-confidence coverage of more than 40 different chemicals using multiple overlapping detection technologies and live video. “The beauty of this system is that it can be packaged and set up at a venue within a day’s notice, without having to sacrifice any of the robustness or features required by such a sophisticated system,” said Ben Wu, a chemical engineer at Sandia who serves as project manager for RDCDS. “The bottom line is that it can help emergency responders save more lives in the event of a terrorist attack.”
RDCDS can detect a variety of chemical warfare agents as well as the more common toxic industrial chemicals. The RDCDS platform will also readily accept other types of detectors, such as those that sense radiological material. As a “detect-to-warn” system, said Wu, the aim of RDCDS is to alert emergency responders to a chemical release early on and enable evacuations or other timely response measures to minimize casualties…
A 2004 version of RDCDS (then known simply as Sensor Management Architecture) utilized just one “node,” e.g., a box laden with electronic components, detectors, and communications equipment, and a total of just two detectors. The RDCDS system has matured to the point that eight nodes, totaling some 64 detectors, were networked in and around McAfee Stadium during the Oakland deployment.
The detectors, said Wu, use a variety of technologies and capabilities in order to counter any attempts by outside forces or terrorists to tamper with the system, and simply to avoid having to rely too heavily on any one detector. Detectors are placed strategically and, depending on wind trajectory and other environmental variables, might even be placed outside a venue’s physical boundaries.
The system also incorporates video surveillance cameras, which serve both to confirm the findings of the detection equipment and to keep a lookout for illicit attempts to damage or alter any system components.