Jun 14 2016 Posted: 09:17 IST

NUI Galway has received Horizon 2020 EU funding for ‘ROCSAFE’ ICT and Security software that will use robotics and intelligent reasoning to gather forensic evidence in the event of a chemical, biological or nuclear incident

A team led by NUI Galway has been awarded €4.8 Million in Horizon 2020 EU funding for their project ROCSAFE (Remotely Operated CBRNe Scene Assessment & Forensic Examination), which will use robotics and intelligent reasoning to gather forensic evidence in the event of a chemical, biological or nuclear incident.

Led by Dr Michael Madden from the College of Engineering & Informatics at NUI Galway, the ROCSAFE project will focus on developing ICT and Security software to gather forensic intelligence in the event of a terrorist attack.

ROCSAFE’s overall goal is to fundamentally change how CBRNe (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense events) are assessed, and ensure the safety of crime scene investigators, by reducing the need for them to enter dangerous scenes to gather evidence.

The overall project budget is €4.8 million, of which almost €1 million has been awarded to NUI Galway. The project includes five other Irish entities and additional funding will be awarded to Tyndall, the Defence Forces (specifically ordinance disposal), the Inter-Agency Emergency Management Office, and two Irish companies, Reamda and SBN. There are 13 partners in total involved in the ROCSAFE project across Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Germany, along with a wider set of advisory board members.

CBRNe accidents or terrorist attacks are a low probability but of high consequence. In the aftermath of a CBRNe event, the principles that govern the response mission are:

  • Protection of Life
  • Elimination/Reduction of Threat
  • Protection of Property
  • Preservation of Evidence
  • Restoration of Normal Activities

Speaking about the project, Dr Michael Madden at NUI Galway, said: “ROCSAFE focuses specifically on three of these principles: the protection of life, the elimination/reduction of the threat, and the preservation of evidence. By building a mobile remotely operated system, ROCSAFE can protect personnel by removing the need for them to go on-scene to identify threats, detect the presence of forensic material, and collect forensic material.”

In order to safely respond to a threat, it must first be identified. To do this, the scientific team will adapt robotic air and ground vehicles to carry cameras and innovative sensors for the identification of CBRNe materials. To preserve evidence, they will equip the vehicles with tools to enable the careful and methodical collection of forensic materials and will develop procedures that are appropriate to remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), to preserve the integrity of the evidence chain.

Using robotic aerial vehicles (RAVs) that will be remotely managed and semi-autonomous, ROCSAFE will quickly gain a visual overview of the scene and identify hotspots. This will enable responders to quickly set up a perimeter to protect bystanders and start managing the scene. The RAVs will be equipped with cameras (operating in the visible and infra-red ranges) and sensors for detection of radiation/nuclear, chemical and biological threats. Data from these will be relayed to a Central Decision Management unit in real-time.

The Central Decision Management will provide data analytics and decision support software to ensure all available data is presented in the Command Centre, which will be located in a safe zone near the periphery of the incident, to the on-scene commanders in an intuitive and easy to assimilate manner. The Central Decision Management will include an innovative approach, which will be able to adapt to the evolving situation over time as information arrives from sensors and cameras, and the people on the scene provide inputs.

ROCSAFE will use state-of-the-art ground vehicles that are specifically designed for hazardous scenes, and will include the development of tools and procedures for gathering forensic material and evidence. The challenges in forensic evidence collection are to remove the possibility of cross-contamination and to ensure the integrity of the evidence chain.

This process will ensure that CBRNe scenes are assessed more rapidly and thoroughly than is currently possible, and that forensic evidence and material is collected in a manner that stands up in court, and all without sending personnel into zones of high risk.

The ROCSAFE project is the most recent in a series of security-related research successes by the Research Office. NUI Galway has recently established a National Centre for Security Research to draw together the multiple strands of security-related research in the University, and to facilitate growth of this activity into the future.

For further information about ROCSAFE visit: http://www.nuigalway.ie/remoteforensics/

ENDS

Marketing and Communications Office

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