Drone biosensor system for detecting biological hazards

Biosensors attached to an aerial drone analyze the air to prevent unnecessary human exposure to harmful agents

Sensors Environmental

A U.S. military unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) prepares to land after a mission. A biosensor system attached to a UAV could prevent human contamination or exposure. (Brian Ferguson/Air Force)

Scientists at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona Division, have recently invented a drone-biosensor system capable of detecting the presence of hazardous agents without putting a person in danger of contamination or exposure. The patented technology is available via patent license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.

The thorough investigation of a disease outbreak, chemical spill, and other incidents featuring the threat of biological hazards are required for containment. However, the process often puts emergency responders at risk for infection or contamination.

As a safer alternative, Navy researchers have created a drone-biosensor system that can wirelessly detect, monitor, and analyze harmful agents at incident scenes in real time. The system attaches to an unmanned aerial vehicle, and its operator can control the drone’s path to identify potential threats or conditions of interest. The biosensor contains a sampling chamber to trap air in the environment, which is then illuminated with laser light and analyzed for the signature absorption and fluorescence signals of known biomolecules.

Using a drone-sensor system can prevent unnecessary exposure to harmful agents, while also remotely scanning for signs of life to assist in evacuation near an accident or contamination scene.

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