Game of Drones: Drones may support diagnosis of biological weapon use in the future.
When facing a suspected scene of a biological attack, safety of the first responders is key. Biological weapons are diverse and so are the countermeasures. Identification of the substance that is suspected of being a harmful biological agent can be necessary - in order to establish if there has been an attack or if the substance is actually harmless. Substance identification is also an important tool to initiate an appropriate and effective action to prevent further damage and to collect forensic evidence.
Today’s standard method, when facing a suspected biological attack, is to collect a sample of the substance and bring it to a laboratory in order to analyse it. The persons collecting the sample need to apply elaborate safety precautions when approaching the suspected source of contamination. Safety precautions include airtight hazmat suits, heavy active respiratory protection, and subsequent decontamination using harsh chemicals. These precautions are cumbersome and limiting for the personnel and may negatively impact the sampling effort.
A new project, ROCSAFE, funded by the European Commission seeks to reduce the need for persons entering high-risk crime scenes, in order to determine the nature of threats and gather forensics. The target of the project is crime scenes with suspected CBRNE material (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive material). The project’s vision is to use drones with cameras and sensor technology to get an overview of the suspected hazard area and then send in”remotely-controlled ground vehicles” to collect material. The scenario includes safe delivery of bagged and tagged material for analysis. The project, with participation from several European countries and a budget of 4.8 million Euros, is set to end in June 2019.