U.S. Army Improves
Tactical Biological Detector
The U.S. Army’s second-generation Tactical Biological
Detector (TACBIO) will provide soldiers with a lightweight,
low-power, highly effective detector capable of being mounted
on manned or unmanned ground vehicles or unmanned aerial
vehicles to detect the presence of a biological threat.
The TACBIO Gen II is designed to detect the presence of
an aerosolized biological threat rapidly and to provide an early
warning to minimize exposure and casualties to the warfighter.
The device exploits the scientific principle that biological aerosols will fluoresce and scatter light when exposed to ultraviolet
light. The signals can be used to detect the existence of a threat
by using a light-emitting diode developed by the Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency that replaces the larger
and more costly ultraviolet lasers. The detector is made of plastic, weighs three pounds three ounces, and has a simple design
that makes it easy to manufacture.
Army officials envision the other services and civilians
adapting and using the technology for a variety of purposes.
For example, hospitals could use the system to monitor air
quality, and the Federal Aviation Administration could do
the same during flights. It also could be used to detect mold
or fungi in homes, Army officials say. The Army’s Edgewood
Chemical Biological Center, which designed, built and tested
the system, transitioned the TACBIO Gen II to private indus-
try through a patent licensing agreement and a cooperative
research and development agreement for large-scale distri-
bution and fielding. In quantities of more than 10,000, the
TACBIO Gen II costs only $2,000 per unit, an $8,000 decrease
from the first-generation TACBIO.
NATO Reinforces European Defense
Describing 2014 as “a black year for European security,”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called for more and
better spending by NATO members as they confront a host of
new threats in Europe and Southwest Asia.
In the Secretary General’s Annual Report 2014, Stoltenberg
stated the security environment has changed fundamentally.
He cited the violent extremism “at our borders” to the south in
Syria and Iraq along with Russia’s use of military force to annex
Crimea, destabilize eastern Ukraine and intimidate its neighbors. These threats have challenged the international order that
The Defense Advanced Research Proj- ects Agency (DARPA) will award a total of $3.5 million in prizes to the top three finishers in the DARPA Robotics
Challenge (DRC), the final event of which
will be held June 5-6 at Fairplex in Pomona,
California. The new prize structure was created in recognition of both the significant
progress already demonstrated by teams
toward the development of human-super-vised robot technology for disaster response
and the increased number of teams planning
to compete in the finals, including those
funded by the European Union and the governments of Japan and South Korea. Aside
from the previously announced $2 million
grand prize, DARPA plans to award $1 million to the runner-up and $500,000 to the
third-place team. DARPA expects at least 20
teams to compete in the DRC Finals.
Last summer, DARPA announced a series
of additional hurdles that teams will face
in the finals. For example, robots will have
to operate completely without wires—they
may not be connected to power cords, fall
arrestors or wired communications teth-
ers. Teams will have to communicate with
their robots over a secure wireless network.
Additionally, teams are not allowed any
physical intervention with their robot after
it begins a run. If a robot falls or gets stuck,
it will have to recover and continue with the
tasks without any hands-on assistance. If
a robot cannot sustain and recover from a
fall, its run will end. Furthermore, DARPA
will intentionally degrade communications
between the robots and human operators
working at a distance. The idea is to repli-
cate the conditions these robots would face
going into a disaster zone. Spotty commu-
nication will force the robots to make some
progress on their own during communica-
On the other hand, teams are likely to
keep their robots connected to fall arrestors
during much of the remaining months of
training as a safeguard against premature
damage to the robot.
The Atlas robot, which is part
of DARPA’s Robotics Challenge,
was redesigned to improve
power efficiency and better
support battery operation.
DARPA Increases Robotics Challenge Prize