Bad things can come in tiny packages.
The post- 9/11 anthrax mailings drove that point home in a dramatic manner. Fortunately, America has a new sentinel on duty – the Tactical Biological Detector (TAC-BIO), an aerosol biological detector that has redefined the state-of-the-art with its small, low-cost, low-power design.
The TAC-BIO team started with a well-known detection principle – namely, that airborne biological agents excited by certain ultraviolet light will fluoresce and scatter light in a specific and identifiable manner – and then improved nearly every element of the long-standing detection technique.
TAC-BIO is a truly man-portable unit.
Compared to competing technologies, TAC-BIO has a 50% smaller footprint, weighs 80% less, consumes only 4% as much power, and manages all of this in a cost-effective platform. Previous fluorescent detection systems required expensive, high-powered ultraviolet lasers.
By Jessica L. Tozer
Admittedly, the initial idea of a robot with a face conjures up memories of every single SciFi robot movie I’ve ever seen. Usually involving humans fleeing in terror as the autonomous voice screams “kill, kill” while shooting rockets out of a gun-arm. Or overly negative and depressed, like Marvin the Paranoid Android. Frankly, I’d take my chances with the later. He’d be a downer, but at least he has no plans for world domination.
Despite my preconceived notions of the robotic overlord race that is sure to enslave (or depress) us all, my experience at the Navy’s new robotics lab was a little less dramatic. What I discovered was not a legion of soldier robots, but a team of highly trained scientists prepared to explain how they’re working toward a goal of integrating robotics into military life.
The brand new Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research (LASR), located at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington, D.C. is spearheading efforts to combine human interaction with robotic skill and capability. The goal is to take the best of both worlds and find a way to make missions easier and more effective for service members. This means everything from locating IEDs to fighting fires.
So how are they doing that? It all starts in the lab, of course.