Energy Department Takes Delivery of New Radiation Monitoring Aircraft

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. — The Department of Energy took delivery of three new radiation monitoring aircraft recently and put them on display here the week before Christmas at one of two home bases for the airborne leg of the agency’s counterterrorism office. The three new King Air 350ER airplanes provided by Textron Aviation [TXT] of Wichita, Kan., will replace three 1980s-vintage aircraft the agency’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) used for decades to scan for traces of potentially harmful radiation. Textron’s contract, which included the procurement of aircraft and integration of gamma ray spectrometers and other equipment, cost $32 million, an NNSA spokesperson wrote in an email before Christmas. One plane will be based at Joint Base Andrews near Washington, another at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas. The third is a spare that will remain at Andrews. Aside from the flight to Andrews for Wednesday’s event, the three planes had mostly been airborne only during test flights in Wichita. The NNSA deploys the Aerial Measuring System fleet, which includes a pair of helicopters in addition to the fixed-wing craft, both proactively and reactively. The aircraft are routinely sent to sweep for illicit nuclear materials at the sites of major public events such as presidential inaugurations or big-ticket sports games, but may also be sent out on call if local, state, or federal law enforcement suspect a radiological threat. “These are fairly regularly used,” Jay Tilden, the NNSA’s associate administrator for counterterrorism and counterproliferation, said in an interview here. “Luckily, I can tell you that for a real-world kind of a threat, like a malevolent threat, that has been very, very rare.”

Army Selects DroneShield for Second Phase of Expeditionary Technology Program

Australia’s DroneShield says the U.S. Army has selected it to continue to Phase II of the Expeditionary Technology Search (xTechSearch) program based on the company’s artificial intelligence/machine learning algorithms used in its drone detection products. Under the xTechSearch program, the Army provides funding to for companies to demonstrate their technologies to meet Army challenges and bring the companies into the Army’s Science and Technology ecosystem by providing research opportunities with Army labs, including access to organic and intellectual capital. “The United States Department of Defense has substantially the largest defense budget globally,” says Oleg Vornik, DroneShield’s CEO. “Collaboration activities such as xTechSearch enable opportunities to be embedded into their ecosystem, with potential significant acquisitions following, as the U.S. DoD seeks effective counter-drone solutions. This selection demonstrates cutting edge of DroneShield’s technologies on a global scale.”

NEXT Biometrics Large-Size FAP20 Sensor Granted PIV Certification

Norway’s NEXT Biometrics says its newly introduced fingerprint module based on the large-size FAP20 sensor has been granted Personal Identity Verification (PIV) Certification in the U.S. “The PIV certification is a highly sought-after accreditation important for customers within global government ID, Notebook, and access control markets,” says Peter Heuman, NEXT CEO. “Our FAP20 sensors already generate market interest from customers seeking to benefit from the large-size sensor performance and thin form factor.” NEXT says the module has been certified by the U.S. FBI as tested and in compliance with the bureau’s Next Generation Identification Image Quality Specifications.