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AR/VR CBRN Solution for Emergency Responders

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Home / Mission / Site-Directed Research and Development / FY 2023 SDRD Annual Report Index / AR/VR CBRN Solution for Emergency Responders

Project # 23-081 | Year 1 of 3

Brian Richardson

North Las Vegas Facility
This work was done by Mission Support and Test Services, LLC, under Contract No. DE-NA0003624 with the U.S. Department of Energy, the NNSA Office of Defense Programs, and supported by the Site-Directed Research and Development Program. DOE/NV/03624–1913.

Abstract

This project seeks to reduce the cost of and improve access to realistic training using smart phones by augmenting or simulating realistic Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, or Explosive (CBRNE) scenarios. The challenge was partially overcome by the introduction of VIRTUS (Virtual Radiation Training through Ubiety Systems), which simulates gamma energy with virtual sources and contamination/fallout zones. This produces real-time detector data for the responder.

VIRTUS is currently the premier virtual tool in use by the National Guard Bureau’s (NGB’s) Homeland Response Force (HRF) CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP). The NGB Civil Support Team (CST) branch, U.S. Army Northern Command (NORTHCOM), and the U.S. Department of Health, Administration for Strategic Preparedness & Response (ASPR) will begin using the VIRTUS training system starting FY 2024. The use of VIRTUS has been a game changer for training National Guard troops. It has greatly improved realism in Nuclear Detonation response training. The additional capability to attach various realistic probes and improve detection and location accuracy will greatly benefit training at all levels and disciplines and add an additional level of realism that would greatly improve the effectiveness of the training.

Background

The innovation is the use of Android smart device sensors and systems, for the purpose of improving a Defense Threat Reduction Agency tool that emulates First Responders CBRNE detectors in all their functionality, as well as in their detection capability. This, integrated with a low-cost external smart probe, will more closely emulate devices for which we currently only emulate the base station. Simulation systems already exist, made by companies such as Argon Electronics. Although excellent, they are too costly for most training scenarios by most first responder agencies.

Technical Approach

  • Improve VIRTUS’s location accuracy.
  • Create smart probes that emulate the functions of pancake, 100 cm2, and beta/gamma probes. These smart probes would integrate into VIRTUS via USB. The probes will use radio ranging algorithms, RFID, accelerometers, infrared ranging, and a GPS engine that will allow the user to accurately locate and measure simulated radioactive sources and contamination.
  • Create software solutions to integrate the output of the new smart probes and virtual sources into the VIRTUS training platform.

Results and Technical Accomplishments

We received the initial smart probes from Hess Systems in September 2022 to demonstrate proof of concept. Initial testing was successful. After initial demonstration, work went into adding the additional technologies to ensure the probes would add the functionality desired.

Probe, puck, and location antenna limitations were identified and recently upgraded with additional capabilities via hardware and software changes that allow for easier charging, higher location accuracy, and increased system capacity.

The programmer is continuing to expand the comms library to include the latest hardware upgrades to the probes and location antennas. The comms library is in testing and validation.

Upgraded prototype probes, pucks and location antennas were evaluated in July. Unknown issues were identified and corrected. Additional function testing is scheduled for September. This project has produced various realistic probes, pucks, and location antennas for use with the VIRTUS training system. A Technology Abstract was submitted and voted to copyright the designs of the probes, pucks, and location antennas. Initial testing was successful. Additional work has been accomplished toward improving the VIRTUS software for data ingestion and preparing for a complete system test this summer. Improvements and identified issues have been addressed and are currently implemented in the devices.

Conclusions and Path Forward

Smart probes have been received and are currently being integrated into the VIRTUS training systems. NGB HRF CERFP currently employs VIRTUS. ARMYNORTH will start using VIRTUS in September of this year with NGB CSTs following later. As Programming and Production are able to integrate, the new smart probes will become useful for improving location accuracy in both GPS available/denied environments as well as for all close-range detection of simulated alpha and beta radiation and contamination. The next step is to complete testing, continue to improve the ingestion of probe data into VIRTUS, and develop appropriately appointed and sized kits to support radiological prevention and response mission training. This improved capability to provide realistic, accurate, low-cost training for simulated radiological incidents will be greatly beneficial to any federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial agency. Providing this level of training will also allow agencies to train where the use of radioactive sources may be prohibited.

VIRTUS tool with SDRD developed probes

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