by David Crane
U.S. military and law enforcement personnel may soon have a new high-tech, albeit small, weapon at their disposal in the "War on Terror". Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control has teamed up with some graduate students at the University of Florida in Gainseville to create a small, ballistic "sticky" round/projectile, originally conceived to aid U.S. Armed Forces personnel to safely detect IED’s (Improvised Explosive Devices) and chemical weapons in Iraq.
It’s called "SPLAT", which stands for "Sticky Polymer Lethal Agent Tag", and it can be fired from a paintball gun at a suspicious package/potential IED from a safe distance. Basically the SPLAT should allow U.S. military and law enforcement (LE) personnel to detect any and all types of dangerous explosive compounds/devices, chemical agents (i.e. investigate suspicious containers, vehicles and structures), or other dangerous threats, from a safe distance.
So far, a "proof of concept" prototype Sticky Polymer Lethal Agent Tag (SPLAT) projectile has been fired successfully at…
test targets up to 65 feet away, at a velocity of 235 fps (feet/second). It’s likely that greater velocities and firing distances will be achievable, once the technology is further developed. The SPLAT projectile is the same diameter a standard paintball (.68 caliber), and is tip-heavy, just like a throwing dart.
The Sticky Polymer Lethal Agent Tag (SPLAT) is essentially a small, clear polymer (plastic) cylindrical tube that houses a sensor and wireless radio transmitter affixed to a narrow circuit board. The polymer tube is outfitted with a sticky gel on it’s forward tip, and a radio antenna at the rear. The circuit board is powered by a watch battery. The sticky gel is a common adhesive that’s currently utilized by the cable televsion industry to seal antenna cables from the elements (i.e. the weather). Total cost of for the SPLAT prototype assembly was less than $1,000. Not bad, especially if it will keep our front line military and law enforcement (LE) personnel safer while conducting dangerous bomb and chemical detection duties, or other missions, while fighting the "War on Terror". When and if the SPLAT goes into production, the per-unit cost should be even less, one would think.
Leslie Kramer, director and engineering fellow at Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control, says the Sticky Polymer Lethal Agent Tag (SPLAT) is modular, and can be outfitted with other devices or sensors, like an accelerometer or MEMS (Micro Electrical Mechanical Systems) just as easily as an explosives or chemical detection sensor. The SPLAT can even be outfitted with a miniature wireless microphone or wireless miniature/micro video camera. Law enforcement agents and intelligence operatives should be particularly pleased about that.
According to Loc Vu-Quo, mechanical and aerospace engineering professor at the University of Florida, and head of the SPLAT development team, one of the keys to the SPLAT was designing it to be capable of withstanding the impact when it’s fired into something from a significant (read that as "safe") distance, which requires a good bit of projectile velocity. Professor Loc Vu-Quo heads up a team of six graduate engineering students: Greg Ivey, Felipe Sutantri, Brendan Hauser, Syed Sohaib, Joshua Taylor and Frederick Thompson IV.
Tara Plew, a Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control research engineer who worked closely with the University of Florida graduate team on the SPLAT, has reportedly said that Lockheed Martin is very excited/optimistic about the technology. Apparently, the Sticky Polymer Lethal Agent Tag (SPLAT) project started as part of the University of Florida’s Integrated Product and Process Design (IPPD) program.
According to a University of Florida article on the SPLAT, "Lockheed Martin officials outlined what they wanted in broad terms and told the students to be creative. The team, which included students from several different engineering fields, considered numerous approaches, including a gun made of plastic tubing, before deciding to try an off-the-shelf paintball gun shooting a modified projectile." The University of Florida Integrated Product and Process Design (IPPD) program is, from what DefRev understands, a year-long program.
So, when will the SPLAT go operational? While nothing is certain yet, Greg Ivey had this to say, "our results were so good that Lockheed is now rushing to develop our prototype into a device that soldiers can carry in Iraq as early as next year." Ivey will be doing post-graduate work at Georgia Tech, this fall.
Click here to read a University of Florida article on the Sticky Polymer Lethal Agent Tag (SPLAT) project.
Click here to read an article on the Sticky Polymer Lethal Agent Tag (SPLAT) at Embedded.com.