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Remotely Operated CBRNe Scene Assessment Forensic Examination

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ROCSAFE (Remotely Operated CBRNe Scene Assessment Forensic Examination)

Reporting period: 2018-01-01 to 2019-12-31

The goal of ROCSAFE is to fundamentally improve how Chemical, Biological, and Radiation/Nuclear (CBRN) incidents are assessed, and to protect the lives of crime scene investigators, by reducing their need to enter dangerous scenes to gather evidence.

To achieve ROCSAFE’s goals of improving how CBRN incidents are assessed while protecting the lives of crime scene investigators, the consortium has made advances in: Artificial Intelligence; autonomous drones; robotic ground vehicles; sampling systems; intelligent user interfaces; virtual reality; and automatic light-weight sensing and analysis systems for chemical, biological and radiation threats.

ROCSAFE makes use of cost-effective modern remotely-controlled robotic air and ground vehicles (RAVs/RGVs). RAVs initially assess the scene with cameras and can carry an array of innovative new high-performance rugged miniaturized sensor systems.

To reduce the crime scene manager’s cognitive load, ROCSAFE includes new Central Decision Management software and a Command, Control and Communications Interface (C3I). All images and data are streamed to this, where they are analysed and displayed on a sophisticated and intuitive interface with maps and video, showing results of analytics and giving readings geographical context.

After the scene is assessed, RGVs are dispatched to collect forensic material/evidence. They have innovative new equipment for forensics collection that will automate best practices. Forensic material is collected, bagged, tagged, documented, and stored by the RGV.
A gap analysis was performed and operational use cases and requirements were defined in close consultation with external stakeholders. One key finding was that early scene assessment and exploitation of a potential CBRNe attack has a critical role to play in response at strategic and political levels.

ROCSAFE’s Robotic Aerial Vehicle (RAV) platform is designed to automatically survey the scene and assist in the location of CBRNe hotspots. It supports autonomous navigation with obstacle detection and mapping, as well as autonomous precision landing. During the flight, images of the event are collected and sent in real time to the Central Decision Management. It also carries a the ROCSAFE Turret, containing a cluster of sensors.

The Turret is a sensor-based R&N, Bio and Chemical remote-controlled sample collection system connected to the RAV. It performs initial analysis on R&N and Chemicals by being winched close to the target area. It collects Bio samples for later analysis in the Landing Pod.

After collecting samples, RAVs land on a Landing Pod which has been towed into position by the Robotic Ground Vehicle. The sample handling system inside it manages the reception of used turrets from the RAV, the delivery of fresh turrets to the RAV, and the delivery of turrets to the analysis modules inside the Landing Pod.

A Robotic Ground Vehicle (RGV) has been developed for remote payload collection. This is based on an new system, Reacher, which is a 450kg Explosive Ordnance Disposal Vehicle. Operator pre-set commands allow the Reacher 7 DOF arm to semi-autonomously utilise forensic evidence containers. New tools have been designed for swabbing, liquid collection, powder collection and larger object collection, to replicate procedures used by forensic investigators.

New sensors for toxic chemicals and explosives have been developed. One is a lightweight infrared analyser with vapour phase pre-concentrator, that can be mounted on small RAVs. Another is a portable rugged chemical sensor based on gas chromatography and quartz-enhanced acoustic spectroscopy, that can be mounted on RGVs. It detects a variety of chemical warfare agents and drug precursors, even in the presentence of interferents like gasoline, detergents and paints.

A Lab-on-a-Chip analyser has been developed for molecular biological analysis of air. It consists of two components, the microfluidic chip and the operating device. The complete analysis process is covered by the chip which contains all required reagents in order to build a “sample in – result out” system. Molecular identification via Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction covers eight typical CBRNE-related pathogenic organisms: Yersinia pestis, Francisella tularensis, Burkholderia mallei, Burholderia pseudomallei, Brucella melitensis, Brucella abortis, Coxiella burnetti, and Bacillus anthracis.

The Radiation Detector is integrated with the RAVs and RGVs. It detects increased levels of gamma radiation and identifies radionuclides. The detection principle is based on scintillation (conversion of high energy gamma rays into lower energy visible photons by a scintillator) and subsequent conversion into an electronic signal by a photo detector.

ROCSAFE has a Central Decision Management (CDM) system to support the people on the scene by providing timely and relevant information, reducing the cognitive load on the investigators. It provides route planning for teams or RAVs, considering their sensor payloads. It provides secure data communications to coordinate all other aspects of ROCSAFE. It provides innovative AI algorithms for analysing images and for probabilistic reasoning about most likely threats given data from sensors.

The CDM works with the Command, Control and Communication Interface, which provides a comprehensive user interface for visualising all information coming from the crime scene and supporting the decision-making process. Virtual environments have also been built to support testing of scenarios, using a 3D physics-based game engine.

All of the ROCSAFE subsystems have been integrated and comprehensively tested and validated. In addition, the consortium held two large public demonstration/dissemination events, one in Baldonnel Aerodrome, Dublin, in Sept 2019 and the other in Sagunto Port, Valencia, in Nov 2019. Both of these were attended by large numbers of external end users. The second one was a joint exercise with the SAURON H2020 project.
ROCSAFE has made technology advances in areas including:
• Artificial Intelligence
• Robotic Aerial Vehicle (RAV) autonomous navigation
• Robotic Ground Vehicles (RGVs) adapted for remote forensic sampling
• Intelligent user interfaces
• Light-weight remote CBRN sensing and analysis systems, including: chemical sensors that can be mounted on aerial and ground vehicles; biological lab-on-a-chip portable analyser, integrated with our landing platform for the robotic vehicles; Radiation/Nuclear sensor that can be mounted on aerial and ground vehicles.

Key impacts include:
1. Chemical sensing: two partners have filed a patent for chemical sensing technologies developed within the project
2. Radiation sensing: technology transfer is being planned to a spinout company, and this is under active discussion
3. Biological analysis: this has led to a new product offering in a partner’s catalogue
4. Robotics and sampling: an SME partner has secured major new contracts in Europe to further commercialize the results of their research to develop robotic sampling devices
5. Academic research: partners have published multiple peer-reviewed academic papers and have given well-received presentations at international conferences, and in addition they have secured new research funding in areas congruent to ROCSAFE.

The partners have also completed 75 dissemination and communication events.