As part of an effort to acquire and field a next-generation system-of-systems for biological threat detection in the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security is seeking information from industry on the further development of threat and classification sensors in urban environments.

The department’s Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office on Sept. 3 issued two Requests for Information for the Biodefense in the 21st Century (BD21)-Sensor Redesign, one for a detection sensor and the other for a classification sensor.

“The DHS CWMD office intends to deploy biosensors in both indoor and outdoor urban environments to conduct real-time monitoring of biological threats and seeks industry to continue research and development efforts in order to meet characterization and cost goals,” DHS says in the information requests posted on the government’s procurement website.

The goal of the BD21 program is to provide major urban areas of the U.S. with the ability to rapidly detect and identify deadly biological agents that could threaten large numbers of people. The system-of-systems would continuously monitor the air, collect data and use data analytics to detect anomalies.

BD21 would eventually replace the current BioWatch program, which is a slow and manually intensive process for detecting and identifying bio-threats. The rapid detection capabilities of the proposed BD21 technologies would dramatically shorten alert times of a potential threat from a day or more to minutes.

In the forthcoming BD21 sensor redesign effort, the CWMD Office says it is proposing a two-phase, 15-month schedule to redesign “commercially available biosensors.” The effort will include prototype testing followed by prototype redesign and then an “independent operational background test and chamber test” by the government, it says.

The objectives of the sensor redesign effort include lower unit costs, improved capability to provide species level of classification, classification of benign particles and the “differentiation between vegetative and sporulated bacteria,” DHS says.