DOD awards sensor-fusion contract

The Defense Department recently purchased a communications and networking system from Sentel Corp. that can monitor and control all types of sensor devices from a secure location.

Sensors of all kinds, from seismic to those used to detect nuclear, biological and chemical agents, are becoming increasingly important as homeland defense and security initiatives gather momentum.

Under the contract, Sentel, an engineering services company, will provide DOD with a "significant number" of its Remote Data Relay (RDR) system units — computerized devices that can network "up to 400 different, disparate sensors" used for detecting nuclear, biological and chemical agents in the air, said James Garrett, Sentel's president and chief executive officer.

Sentel will also provide installation and operational support for the RDRs as well as the RDR Command Post software, which enables sensors to be monitored and operated from one site or hub.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but each unit costs $7,000 to $10,000, Garrett said. DOD awarded Sentel the contract in late May, and it was announced June 10.

The wide-area network system enables users to monitor and control sensors from a centralized, safe location, which reduces the need to send soldiers into dangerous battlefield situations to check or activate chemical and biological agent detection sensors, he said. In addition to nuclear, biological and chemical sensors, the RDR system can also manage devices such as video cameras, weather tools, particle counters, metal detectors and motion detectors used in defense, security and safety operations, Garrett said. It also provides analog, digital, serial and Ethernet interfaces.

Garrett said he could not discuss specifically where the system is being used but did say that it could be deployed overseas and domestically to help fight the war on terrorism and for homeland security purposes, such as building protection.

"Within four to six weeks after an order, the system can be placed in operation," he said.

NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration are also Sentel customers, and the Alexandria, Va.-based company is hoping to announce its latest government customer "within four to six weeks," Garrett said.

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