US Army Troops Will Soon Wear Personal Chemical Detectors Into Battle

The Pentagon just splashed out an initial $4 million on the project, with more yet to come.
Fabienne Lang

As part of its Compact Vapor Chemical Agent Detector (CVCAD) program, the Pentagon just awarded Teledyne FLIR a $4 million contract to develop the U.S. Army's first mass-wearable chemical detector.

Announcing the news on Monday, June 14, the intelligent sensing tech company said it will produce a "unique dual-sensor device that detects chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals, as well as flammable gases and enriched or depleted oxygen levels that may indicate an explosive atmosphere." 

How the smaller, wearable devices will save more lives

So far, the Army doesn't have individual sensors for each of its soldiers, as it has typically relied on larger and bulkier detectors and alarms that scan a wide area for chemicals, and warn troops of a potential chemical hazard. These aren't as practical for foot soldiers, nor are they as safe. 

US Army Troops Will Soon Wear Personal Chemical Detectors Into Battle
Teledyne FLIR's future wearable chemical detector. Source: Teledyne FLIR

The future lightweight, wearable devices, which can also be fitted onto drones, will provide more immeditate and individual safety for troops on the ground so they know that the air around them is safe to breathe, and that they can fire their weapons in closed-off spaces without worrying about explosions taking place — something that especially happens in confined spaces. 

Roger Wells, VP and general manager of Unmanned Systems & Integrated Solutions at Teledyne FLIR, said that "Putting a wearable CVCAD sensor on all warfighters will offer an unprecedented level of chemical threat awareness, enabling them to perform their primary mission with far greater safety"

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The contract lasts five years, and consists of a 12-month first phase, followed by a 10-month second phase, and two follow-on options. 

The device is certainly more technical that other detectors that rely on butterfly wings to sense lethal chemical agents. However much we enjoy the vision of the U.S. Army's troops heading into battle surrounded by fluttering butterflies, Teledyne FLIR's compact, wearable detector seems much more appropriate, and camouflage-friendly.

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