Shape of things to comeSAIC to develop artificial nose

Published 15 October 2008

DARPA awards SAIC a contract under the RealNose program; the project aims to create a device which emulates dogs’ olfactory system

Science Applications International Corporation has been awarded a contract by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Defense Sciences Office to design and develop a sensor inspired by a canine’s olfactory system, or sense of smell. The new contract has a fifteen month base period of performance, one six month option, a single one-year option, and a total contract value of $18 million if all options are exercised. The effort is part of DARPA’s RealNose Program. Work will be performed primarily in San Diego and is expected to be completed by December of 2010.

The goal of DARPA’s RealNose program is to build an artificial “nose” to create a breakthrough detection system with capabilities beyond that of the dog. Under the contract, SAIC will model, design, and develop this sensor, which will include subsystems for air/odor intake, detection using olfactory receptors, signal transduction, and pattern recognition to identify odors. The sensor could help protect U.S. forces in war zones by detecting explosives and chemical or biological weapons. By simulating, or emulating, all components of the canine sense of smell, a revolutionary detection capability could be created that detects and identifies thousands of chemicals with precision and high sensitivity.

There is a critical need for sensitive detection and accurate identification of chemicals and mixtures of chemicals, such as explosives and chemical weapons that threaten our deployed troops,” said John Fratamico, SAIC senior vice president and business unit general manager. “This is a challenging project at the interface between biology and chemistry, and we look forward to working with DARPA make this dramatic new technology a reality.”