Defense

July 30, 2012

R.A.T.S. research may teach rodents to detect explosives

The African giant pouched rat is socialized and readily handled. The Rugged Automated Training System research sponsored by scientists with the U. S. Army Research Laboratory, in collaboration with engineers at West Point and the Counter Explosives Hazards Center, explores whether small rodents could be used to detect improvised explosives and mines.

A rat may never be man’s best friend, but the Rugged Automated Training System research sponsored by scientists with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, in collaboration with engineers at West Point and the Counter Explosives Hazards Center, will determine if and how these animals can be trained to save soldiers’ lives.

In July, Barron Associates Inc., Charlottesville, Va. was selected for an award under the Small Business Technology Transfer, or STTR, program to develop and test a rugged, automated and low-cost system for training rats to detect improvised explosive devices and mines, said Micheline Strand, chief of the Army Research Office’s Life Sciences Division, which manages the program.

“The automated system we’re developing is designed to inexpensively train rats to detect buried explosives to solve an immediate Army need for safer and lower-cost mine removal,” said William Gressick, senior research engineer and the project’s principal investigator at Barron Associates. “Beyond this application, the system will facilitate the use of rats in other search tasks such as homeland security and search-and-rescue operations. In the long-term, the system is likely to benefit both official and humanitarian organizations.”

“If we can demonstrate that rats can be trained inexpensively to be reliable detectors, then this method would not only lower costs for the Army but would also create new opportunities for using animals to detect anything from mines to humans buried in earthquake rubble,” Strand said.

Air Force SSgt. Brandon Chism, explosive ordnance disposal technician with the 466th Air Expeditionary Squadron, talks with Afghan National Civil Order Police Sgt. Nasrullah Mohammad Sharif, also an Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician, about how he uses zip ties to mark a simulated improvised explosive device, Oct. 23, 2011. Chism and his teammates set up weekly training sessions with the ANCOP, in order to validate their technical skills in detecting, extracting and safely clearing improvised explosive devices.

It is well established that animals are capable of identifying explosives at lower concentrations than abiotic systems. The Department of Defense currently relies on dogs as the animal of choice for explosives detection. The goal of this STTR program is not to replace the use of dogs, but to expand the Army’s detection capabilities.

“Training dogs is very expensive. If we can significantly reduce the cost of a trained animal, then we could provide more animals to protect soldiers.” Strand explained.

Trained rats would also create new opportunities; rats can search smaller spaces than a dog can, and are easier to transport.

Landmines kill between 15,000 and 20,000 people a year, and continue to kill adults and children decades after a conflict ends. An automated system to train rats to find mines could accelerate worldwide efforts to clear mined areas and return mined land to farming or other productive uses.

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory of the U.S. Army Research Development and Engineering Command is the Army’s corporate laboratory.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Lockheed Martin photograph by Matt Short

‘Grim Reapers’ introduce Oceana to F-35C

An F-35C Lightning II aircraft makes an arrested landing during a test flight at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. The F-35C is the carrier variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.   The “Grim Reapers” of Stri...
 
 
Army photograph by Tom Faulkner

Army evaluates DARPA’s futuristic soft exosuit

Army photograph by Tom Faulkner Spec. Rafael Boza, a Soldier from the 1st Infantry Division, tests the prototype smart suit on a three-mile course of paved roads and rough terrain at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., Oct. 3, 2014. ...
 
 
Marine Corps photograph by SSgt. John Jackson

Marines, Brits turn over Helmand bases to Afghan forces

Marine Corps photograph by SSgt. John Jackson Marines and sailors with Marine Expeditionary Brigade Afghanistan load onto a KC-130 aircraft at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Oct. 27, 2014. The Marine Corps en...
 

 
DOD photograph by Air Force TSgt. Nathan Gallahan

Senior enlisted leaders tour California units

DOD photograph by Air Force TSgt. Nathan Gallahan Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conducts a ceremonial oath of enlistment ceremony at the Los Ang...
 
 
Navy photograph

Navy to commission submarine North Dakota

Navy photograph The PCU North Dakota (SSN 784) during bravo sea trials. The crew performed exceptionally well on both alpha and bravo sea trials. The submarine North Dakota is the 11th ship of the Virginia class, the first U.S....
 
 
Army photograph by David Kamm

Army advances technology at Base Camp Integration Laboratory

Army photograph by David Kamm Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, listens as Bob Graney explains details of the energy-efficient rigid-wall shelter system, Oct. 22, 2014...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>