New Sensor System Helps Tracking ISIS Explosives


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A new use for a bomb-detecting technology: identifying the dangerous opioid fentanyl from a distance using a laser beam to protect soldiers and law enforcement officers and help with prosecutions.

Fentanyl — 100 times more potent than morphine — can be dangerous even to touch. Officers are often sickened by fentanyl exposure during busts.

“Farther, faster, safer,” said Ed Dottery, owner of Alakai Defense Systems, describing the advantages of the technology. Dottery said his sensor system is already being used by the US military to protect troops against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria truck bombs.

It works by shooting a laser beam at an object, then reading the change in the beam when it bounces back. Those changes signal whether there are chemicals used to make explosives.

According to, a portable version of the system appears to have great value in law enforcement narcotics and bomb detection investigations, especially involving the deadly drug Fentanyl, make technology like this important for officer safety.

Dottery said his system could prevent officers from having to don protective gear because they could detect the presence of the drug without getting near it.

Still, while promising, the technology has a long way to go before it can be used by law enforcement to detect fentanyl. The current version is too bulky and too expensive to be practical, a police sheriff said.

Alen Tomczak, an Alakai field engineer who was present for the Sheriff’s Office test, said the company is not trying to sell a system to either agency at this point because more research is needed. But the initial result was promising, Tomczak said.

The test, he said, only took one laser shot of the fentanyl. “To make it official, we usually take 100 or 200 shots to make sure our algorithms are right,” he said.

Alakai is looking to collaborate with law enforcement to refine and develop the system, Tomczak said. That includes finding enough fentanyl to conduct further testing.