In what may be just an eerie coincidence, the Defense Department posted a contract award notice today to Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts for research into "Methods for Explosive Detection at Standoff." Of particular concern are Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) that have become a favorite among terrorists and gained widespread attention during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. According to the solicitation first issued in October 2012:
DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] is soliciting innovative multidisciplinary research proposals to rapidly develop and demonstrate non-contact methods to detect explosives embedded or packaged in opaque media with high water content (e.g., water, mud, meat/animal carcasses) at standoff.
Accompanying documents further explain the purpose and goals of the research:
Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are persistent threats that manifest themselves in almost innumerable forms. Their detection and safe disposal is a formidable challenge.
Over the past two decades, much progress has been made to address this challenge with the development of technologies with ever increasing levels of sophistication. These range from indirect methods to detect packaging, wiring, or fusing to more direct detection methods. Indirect methods such as these are outside the scope of this program...
The vision of this program is to develop methods that permit rapid detection of bulk explosives embedded within an opaque medium with high water content. This will preclude the use of trace detection methods and bulk methods where significant penetration into the medium is not possible. In addition, the use of ionizing radiation, other than possible employment of backscatter technology must be excluded because of health concerns to military personnel and civilians in proximity to the area of concern...
B. Program Objectives and Metrics
The goal of the MEDS program is to develop and demonstrate non-contact methods to detect explosives embedded or packaged in opaque media with high water content such as mud, meat, animal carcasses, etc. Because detection/imaging methods have not been developed or applied to this regime, proposals for a proof-of-concept program with emphasis on demonstration of feasibility are solicited. Objectives are intended to demonstrate feasibility and are not intended to reflect an operational environment.
A revision to the original solicitation on April 8 appeared to postpone the award notice until October 15, 2013 from the original date of Monday, April 15:
The purpose of this Modification 1 to DARPA-BAA-13-01, Methods for Explosive Detection at Standoff (MEDS), is to change the proposal closing deadline from April 15, 2013, 4:00PM, ET to October 15, 2013, 4:00PM, ET.
However, the award notice was posted this morning without further explanation. Earlier awards were made to the University of Arizona, BAE Systems, and Quasar Federal Systems under the same solicitation heading.