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DARPA has been using ambulances to search for nukes in D.C.

Paul Szoldra
ambulance

(Scott Olson / Getty Images)
DARPA has been using ambulances outfitted with special equipment to keep the nation's capitol safe from nuclear weapons.

The Pentagon's research-and-development shop announced on Wednesday the conclusion of its biggest and longest-running test deployment of its Sigma program. The test run had been running for seven months and finished in February.

DARPA installed roughly 73 radiation detectors on emergency vehicles, logging more than 100,000 hours and 150,000 miles around the city. The networked gear runs advanced software that can detect tiny traces of radioactivity, which is able to sort out the benign from the potentially deadly. 

“D.C. Fire and EMS was an invaluable partner and testbed for SIGMA’s vehicle-scale detectors,” Vincent Tang, DARPA program manager, said in a statement. "The data gathered during the D.C. deployment are helping to further fine-tune the SIGMA system for potential deployment in major cities across the country and for emergency use by active-duty military units and National Guard civil support teams.” 

Besides the vehicle-mounted devices, DARPA also has smartphone-sized devices that fit on a police officer's belt, and detectors that can attach to fixed sites such as roads, bridges, and critical infrastructure.

Check out the video below to see an overview of the program:

 

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