The US Army, NevadaNano, and the University of Nevada are knee deep in a project whereby a robot drone will sense chemicals via sensors while in flight. It’s easy to see how many useful applications this process could find in industrial, defense, transportation, safety, and many other sectors.
The sensor sniffs out the molecular properties of a myriad of chemicals, rather than of one specific element. At the prototype stage now, the focus will be to shrink the technology and move into the second phase, for evaluation within the next few months.
The 10-year old company NevadaNano provides MEMS-based sensor modules for both commercial and government applications. Its molecular spectrometer system is a low-power, small form-factor, lightweight sensing solution that incorporates multiple sensor elements into a solid-state silicon chip. It is used to measure the thermodynamic and electrostatic molecular properties of vapor, liquid, and particle samples.
The technology's claim to fame in the identification of unknown chemicals is the ability to sniff them out and accurately identify them, and to do so from a small form factor that can easily be adapted into many types of systems.
So far, there's not much additional information on the chemical-sniffing drone front yet, but this one should logically be a good one to keep an eye on for use in hazardous industrial applications.