In advance of formal technology transition, DARPA’s SIGMA+ program concluded a three-week capstone event with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Port Authority) this past summer, demonstrating through realistic exercise scenarios the ability to detect a wide spectrum of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threats. The July exercises, which spanned all 15 Port Authority commands, culminated a five-year effort to develop and deploy an automated, high-performance, networked and mobile system that provides continuous city-scale monitoring of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) threats.
Building on the successful DARPA-Port Authority engagement during the preceding SIGMA program — which focused on radiological and nuclear threat detection — SIGMA+ expanded to include development of advanced chemical, biological, and explosive sensors, integrated vehicle designs, real-time monitoring networks, and advanced analytics for threat detection and interdiction. The SIGMA+ networked systems approach leverages all these technologies to provide a comprehensive ability for law enforcement and first responders to quickly detect, localize, and track threats with easy-to-interpret results to support situational awareness and decision making.
“The partnership with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey over the past seven years on SIGMA and SIGMA+ has been critical to advancing state-of-art capabilities to detect and deter a full range of CBRNE threats,” said Mark Wrobel, who managed the program for DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office. “This outstanding cooperation enabled DARPA to test cutting-edge technology in the nation’s largest metropolitan region, which significantly sped up the transition from R&D to operational use.”
The SIGMA+ sensor suite was integrated into a small fleet of Port Authority vehicles to enable mobile monitoring throughout New York City and northern New Jersey. The exercises simulated various threat scenarios that could pose a risk to high-value sites, key infrastructure, or local populations. The drills aided in familiarizing officers with system capabilities and features, development of tactics, techniques and procedures, and preparation to operationalize the capabilities later this fall. In addition to the exercises, federal and state homeland security stakeholders were able to view the integrated CBRNE detection vehicles and engage with DARPA and the Port Authority on how SIGMA+ advanced sensor systems could support their mission needs. Final efforts of the SIGMA+ program will include formal transition of the integrated sensor platforms to the Port Authority and other stakeholders to provide a long-term operational capability for threat detection beyond SIGMA+.
“Protecting the public from weapons of mass destruction is of critical importance, which is why we partner with DARPA to test and deploy cutting-edge detection tools,” said Port Authority Chief Security Officer Greg Ehrie. “These tools provide an enhanced layer of vigilance to keep the millions of people who use and work at our facilities safe.”