ICx Nomadics turns men into dogs with new explosive sniffer

Published 23 October 2006

The Fido XT is used alongside canine units to maximize coverage; users must train themselves to imitate German shepherds; technology is sensitive enough to locate a pistol that has not been fired in ten years; robot mounting an option, too

Man’s best friend is a dog, but a dog’s best friend may be the Fido XT Explosives Detector, a portable ultra-sensitive device manufactured by Stillwater, Oklahoma-based ICx Nomadics. National Park Police are currently using the Fido XT as an adjunct bomb-sniffing device alongside canine patrols, not to replace them but rather to enhance the live Fido’s accuracy. “We do not want to say in any way, shape or form that we are better than dogs,” said ICx’s John Sikes. “Dogs are much faster and more efficient than anything else out there, but their side-by-side operations with Fido produced uncanny results.” The handheld, three pound instrument can even be mounted on a robot, an application suitable to a dog imitator. “It is truly amazing to see these robots maneuver and search for scent using the Fido sensor; they really look like high tech dogs working to find explosive devices,” said Robots Kip Schultz, a canine trainer/instructor with ICx Nomadics. The only difference is the Fido XT does not try and eat his handler’s roast beef sandwiches.

In fact, even using the Fido XT in its handheld configuration requires canine instincts. Dogs instinctively position their noses in the optimum way to expose their scent glands, and the human user must try to replicate the effort by thinking the way a dog thinks. “We’re talking about picking up the stuff you can’t see. When you enter in wind and different environmental conditions, using the device to screen does take some intelligence,” said Sikes. The Fido XT is so sensitive, in fact, that it can detect residue from a pistol that has not been fired in ten years.

In addition to the National Park Police, the Fido XT is in use at the Statue of Liberty and is being tested for use at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

-read more in Ashley Roe’s Government Security report; see also this company news release