protective goggles (FLIR Systems/YouTube)

Connected Warrior

DARPA-funded fabric protects against chemical, biologic threats

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is developing new fabrics and protective equipment that can reduce the risk of chemical and biological threats to service members and responders.

FLIR Systems was awarded a contract potentially worth more than $20 million under DARPA’s Personalized Protective Biosystems program. Under the PPB award, FLIR will rapidly develop fabrics with embedded catalysts and chemicals that can be incorporated into boots, gloves and eye protection, company officials said. Teams led by Leidos and Charles River Analytics were also awarded PPB contracts.

The PPB program aims to reduce the weight, heat and physiological burden of the current personal protective equipment soldiers and health care workers must wear. By combining lightweight protective materials with prophylactic medical technologies, FLIR aims to mitigate chemical and biological threats to the eyes, skin and lungs, company officials said. The complete system will enable troops and first responders to operate without the burden of carrying and wearing PPE, which can cause heat stress and reduce time spent completing the mission.

In this recent 60 Minutes episode, Matthew Hepburn, a DARPA program manager and infectious disease physician, said research agency’s goal is to stop pandemics from happening. Hepburn told the program that when he was hired at DARPA eight years ago, his mission was to “take pandemics off the table.”

This is not new work for FLIR. The company has been working on what it calls an Integrated Soldier Protective System. The fabrics that FLIR will develop under the DARPA contract are part of that system.

One goal is to create protective gear that is lightweight and cooler to wear.

“The complete system will enable troops and first responders to operate without the burden of carrying and wearing PPE, which can cause heat stress and reduce time spent completing the mission,” FLIR said in a statement.

The contract has two-year base, a two-year option and then a one-year final option. Most of the work will be performed at FLIR facilities in Pittsburgh.

This article was first posted to Washington Technology, a sibling site to Defense Systems.

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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