DARPA sent 1,000 people around Washington DC with networked radiation detectors (VIDEOS)

DARPA recently used volunteers to test their smart-phone sized SIGMA program which uses a mobile network of crowd-sourced detectors that sniff for sources of radiation that could be a nuke.

The problem is that current detectors in use are not very smart, are expensive, can generate false alarms and are not available in large numbers.

That’s where SIGMA comes in.

While current detectors cost $10,000 and are the size of a shoe box, the ones being trialed are the size of a phone and cost just $400. Further, they are 10 times faster in detecting gamma and neutron radiation. When coupled in a large network, they can help identify the difference between medical radiation such as in x-ray machines, and a possible dirty bomb.

Following up on smaller tests in New Jersey and New York, a recent event using volunteers– profiled in the video above– put 1,000 SIGMA detectors in the field around the nation’s capital in a massive beta test. Organizers used a scavenger hunt to put participants in motion and compile data.

“We are extremely pleased with SIGMA’s achievements to date in advancing radiation detection technology to fit in a portable, pocket-sized form factor at a price that’s a fraction of what current advanced sensors cost,” says applied physicist Dr. Vincent Tang, program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office. “The ability to network hundreds, and soon many thousands of these smart detectors would make cities in the United States and around the world safer against a wide variety of radiological and nuclear threats.”

DARPA hopes to push SIGMA out to first responders and public agencies sometime after 2018.

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