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Smith Detection, AeroVironment and US Army Collaborate on Chemical Agent-Detecting UAV
Partnership allows aerial chemical detection and tracking by unmanned aerial vehicles.
By Robotics Trends Staff - Filed Oct 21, 2009

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Partnership combines powerful chemical sensors and advanced algorithms to enable rapid aerial chemical detection and tracking by unmanned aerial vehicles.

Smiths Detection announced the successful creation and demonstration of an unmanned aircraft chemical detection and identification system capable of warning troops against chemical warfare agents. The detection and identification system, able to fit in the interchangeable nose cone of a Raven® UAV, is a result of the collaborative efforts between Smiths Detection, AeroVironment, Inc. (AV) (Nasdaq: AVAV), the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center and other U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) laboratories.

To provide safe and effective standoff detection and identification capability of chemical hazardous events, the sophisticated chemical sensor nose cone was developed specifically to fit into AV’s RQ-11B Raven as part of a DoD program funded by the Joint Program Manager Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Contamination Avoidance, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and the U.S. Army Product Manager, Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

Mal Maginnis, President, Global Military and Emergency Response for Smiths Detection, said: “We have all leveraged our core strengths to provide the DoD with a unique, valuable solution for remote chemical detection and are delighted with the results of this outstanding effort which can enable troops to avoid life-threatening situations.”

In a successful demonstration at the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Grounds, a chemical sensor-equipped Raven was flown into a chemical cloud and successfully detected and identified the chemical, tracking the chemical vapor plume autonomously. Thousands of Raven air vehicles have been deployed and are in use by U.S. and several allied military forces.

John Grabowsky, Executive Vice President and General Manager, AV Unmanned Aircraft Systems, said: “A ‘plug and play’ chemical sensor payload for Raven represents a new capability that could help war fighters operate more safely and effectively, and could assist in a variety of disaster response scenarios. As the most widely deployed unmanned aircraft system, adding chemical sensing to the Raven system’s existing streaming color and infrared video payloads would expand the utility and value of this important solution to our customers.”

The chemical sensor Smiths Detection developed for the Raven is based on its Lightweight Chemical Detector (LCD), the commercial variant of the DoD’s Joint Chemical Agent Detector (JCAD) program. The LCD has been radically modified into a new cylindrical form factor unit known as the Chemical Sensor Module (CSM), yet it retains all of the critical chemical detection and identification capabilities of the LCD. Because of the size and weight, the CSM can be integrated into AV’s Raven Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS) to make it capable of automatic detection, identification and quantification of dangerous chemical warfare agents.

Advanced control algorithms developed by DoD labs allow the Raven to operate in a semi-autonomous mode analyzing the data collected by the CSM and determining chemical cloud size, direction and density in real-time.

The chemical detecting UAV will be demonstrated at the 2009 AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C. from October 5-7 at Smiths Detections’ booth, #2361.

About Smiths Detection
Smiths Detection ( offers advanced security solutions in civil and military markets worldwide, developing and manufacturing government-regulated technology products that identify explosives, chemical and biological agents, weapons and contraband. It is part of Smiths Group (, a global leader in applying advanced technologies to markets in threat as well as contraband detection, energy, medical devices, communications and engineered components. Smiths Group employs around 22,000 people in more than 50 countries.

David Olsen
Coltrin & Associates, for Smiths Detection
P:  212-221-1616

Dana Knox-Gower
Smiths Detection Global Military and Emergency Response
P:  203-207-9700 ext. 26

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