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Thunderstorm: Drones in CBRN Detection and Terrorism

The Department of Defense has issued a Request for Information (RFI) in support of future capability demonstration events conducted by the Thunderstorm Technology Demonstration Program.

Thunderstorm is a series of technology demonstrations and other activities sponsored by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Emerging Capability and Prototyping, Rapid Reaction Technology Office (RRTO).

In FY15, Thunderstorm will focus on two areas of interest: 1) Chemical and biological detection capabilities deployed on Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS); 2) Countering threat of UAS with chemical and/or biological WMD payloads.

Airborne Detection of Chemical and Biological Threats

The first focus area will explore emerging technologies, technical applications and their potential to use a battery-powered Vertical Take-Off and Land (VTOL) UAS to support the detection and identification of chemical and biological agents.

Highlighted capabilities of interest include:

  • A system that is carried in one backpack up to systems carried/deployed from a HUMVEE-sized vehicle
  • UAS payloads that can remotely detect and/or collect and transmit chemical and/or biological data to a receiving unit at least 1 kilometer from the sensing location.
  • UAS operable by organic Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) unit personnel with minimal training and should be able to hover and land at or near the desired survey locations.
  • Ground station capability to provide visual displays of the sensing data received from the mobile detection systems.
  • Modular payload(s) capable of detecting: Standard G, H and V series chemical agents in the vapor phase and/or liquid phase on surfaces or aerosolized particles; Chemical agent precursors or degradation products, priority toxic industrial compounds and materials; Biological Warfare Agents (vegetative cells, spores and toxins); Persistent and natural flora (providing biological surveillance on current and emerging flora).
  • Ground station may utilize autonomous operation (takeoff, navigation, sample detection/collection and landing) of the UAS utilizing standard geo-referenced satellite imagery that is either pre-loaded or downloaded on-demand from cellular or Wi-Fi networks. The autonomy interface should be simple enough to be learned in one day or less.
  • UAS able to operate between 0 and 1000 feet above ground level (AGL) and should have a flight time of at least 30 minutes.
  • Positional accuracy of UAS should be +/- 10 meters and altitude accuracy within 1 meter.

Remote collection of samples for identification and confirmation at qualified DOD laboratories is required for biological payloads and highly desired for chemical payloads.

Countering Threat of WMD Delivery by Unmanned Drones

The second focus area will explore emerging technologies, technical applications and their potential to counter a low cost, small/man portable, UAS carrying a chemical and/or biological WMD payload.

Highlighted capabilities of interest include:

  • Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Collaboration and Intelligence (C5I) and sensor systems that facilitate rapid detection, identification and classification of UAS targets;
  • Electronic systems that can interdict, defeat or deny hostile use of UAS.
  • Systems providing the capability to intercept and neutralize the UAS. Both kinetic and non-kinetic solutions are encouraged and should cover both CONUS and OCONUS applications.

Interested parties are welcome to submit their applications to participate in both or either of the above focus areas. Technologies at all classification levels will be considered.

This RFI is for Thunderstorm Spiral 15-3 technology demonstration event, planned for 2nd Quarter Fiscal Year 2015 in Camp Shelby, MS. This event facilitates the identification of potential technology solutions to meet technical objectives. Materiel solutions brought to the event must be at a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 4 or greater.

The Applied Research Laboratory at Pennsylvania State University (ARL/PSU) will act as the demonstration director for Spiral 15 demonstrations and host the receipt of the application packages.

Further details are available under Solicitation Number: RRTO-2014-11-26-RFI-Spiral-15. Applications are due by November 26, 2014.

Image: A Tactical Unmanned Aerial System maintainer assigned to the TUAS Platoon, Company B, 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), conducts maintenance on a “Shadow” Unmanned Aerial System at Fort Campbell, Ky. Credit: Brian Smith-Dutton 3/101 Public Affairs, courtesy of DVIDS.

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