DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah -- Ten years ago, Dugway began pursuing a system to make outdoor testing of chemical and biological defenses more efficient and mobile, and less expensive. By this fall, the newly installed hardware and software of the Test Grid Safari Instrumentation System will be in place to solve those requirements in an era of shrinking budgets and reduced personnel staffing.
Funding for the multimillion dollar system is provided by the Department of Defense's Joint Project Manager for Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defense.
The new testing system will significantly improve outdoor testing of chemical and biological agent detectors which employs simulant, a benign substance with characteristics similar to actual agent. Simulant simplifies testing allowing authentic scenarios without the safety risks of actual agent.
Warfighters and first-responders receive the greatest benefit -- a rigorously tested detector placed in their hands sooner.
The Test Grid Safari Instrumentation System offers an option not available before--testers may use an established test grid, but the testing system's mobility allows testing in non-traditional areas such as a canyon, salt flat or mountain slope on Dugway.
The new system also provides for real-time data review. Normally, data is sent from samplers and detectors to individual digital storage devices. At the end of each day or trial, the storage devices are collected and their data are downloaded into a central repository. Later, personnel process the raw data into a more useable format for study and comparison. This can take weeks, depending upon the test's extent.
The new testing system sends encrypted data from the tested detector directly to Dugway's Ditto Area for storage and backup. From Ditto, it's sent to the Relocatable Command Post near the test site for real-time viewing. Trial data displayed includes weather conditions, generator electrical output, cloud tracking, detector status, data management and instrument status.
"The idea is a one-stop shop for immediate test decision making, to review data in real time, as it happens, instead of waiting for data to be processed," said Nathan Lee, physical scientist with Dugway's Test Support Division overseeing the project. "Real-time tells us whether to continue or to stop testing and fix it."
Developers of the new test system foresee a near-future capability for viewing by pre-authorized personnel. Initially, authorization will be limited within Dugway, but access may be widened. Imagine the Secretary of Defense at his desk, watching a detector test in real time, or a handful of Canadian engineers in Montreal, witnessing how their biological detector is faring.
The Test Grid Safari Instrumentation System ushers in a new standard for testing chemical and biological detectors outdoors ensuring Warfighters and first responders can trust their detectors to work as required when a chemical or biological incident or attack occurs.