In Pictures: Dugway’s Chem-Bio Test Grid Safari Instrumentation System

Chem-Bio Simulant Testing at Dugway
A vehicle-mounted disseminator releases simulated chemical agent to test the accuracy of a detector, placed downwind. A new, mobile system for testing chemical and biological agent detectors is anticipated to be complete this fall. Credit: Joe Mashinski, US Army

Ten years ago, Dugway Proving Ground began pursuing a system to make outdoor testing of chemical and biological defenses more efficient and mobile, and less expensive. By this fall, the Test Grid Safari Instrumentation System will be in place to solve those requirements in an era of shrinking budgets and reduced personnel staffing.

The new system aims to significantly improve outdoor testing of chemical and biological agent detectors which employs simulant, a benign substance with characteristics similar to actual agent.

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.”

Funding for the multi-million dollar system is provided by the Department of Defense’s Joint Project Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense.

Article adapted from original by Al Vogel, Dugway Proving Ground, edited for context and format by CBRNE Central.