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DRDO could sell its explosive detector in US
Times of India, 1 August, 2013
WASHINGTON: It won't be a blow-out entry that will sweep America's famed military machine off its feet. But for an organization that was once sanctioned by Washington, derided by New Delhi's import lobby, and mocked even by frustrated swadeshi partisans, India's long-suffering military-technology outfit Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) is taking baby steps this week towards enhancing its reputation with the launch of an explosive detection kit (EDK) in the United States.

The EDK is not exactly rocket science for which DRDO is better-known for through with its work on Agni and other nuclear-capable missiles. But it is a nifty bit of technology that could only have been devised in such a scaled down version by a country ravaged by terrorist attacks. It attracted a fair bit attention from a range of international terrorism experts and law-enforcement agencies, for both its price and its features, particularly after it won several awards, and served as an import substitution for more expensive technologies India was importing from the west.

The kit can be used to instantly identify explosives that are typically used in bomb blasts. At the simplest level, samples from the crime scene are tested against chemicals in the kit, which then determines whether the explosive used is RDX, TNT, PETN or any other chemical. DRDO has also made a pocket-sized, use-and-discard version of the kit, which can be used by local law-enforcement agencies to determine quick results in cases such as the Boston marathon bombing and New York City's Times Square episode.

According to DRDO, the kit can detect and identify explosives based on any combination of nitroesters, nitramines, trinitrotoluene (TNT), dynamite or black powder. The testing requires only 3 to 5 mg of suspected sample and only 3 or 4 drops of reagents. The kit, which costs less than $ 100, comes packed in a box the size of a vanity case and in miniature vials that can be kept in shirt pockets, and contains reagents capable of detecting explosives, even in extremely small trace quantities. Upscale western versions of such a kit costs hundreds, even thousands of dollars.

In fact, it is precisely the growing number of terrorists attacks in the US and other western countries that appears to have persuaded DRDO to come out its swadeshi mode and pitch it in America with help from FICCI, the Indian industries' association. The duo will formally launch the kit on Friday at an event in the US Chamber of Commerce, not withstanding the incessant rant from the latter about India's protectionist policy and its alleged infringement of intellectual property rights.

''This event will commemorate the commercialization of EDK and should also emphasize the efforts of DRDO and their willingness to share Indian technologies with the United States to preserve and protect the lives of US servicemen and women," FICCI's Secretary General Dr Didar Singh said in a note on the launch, without a trace of irony.

In fact, it was a US firm, Crowe and Company, which first entered into a licensing agreement with DRDO to manufacture and market the EDK, which was developed by High Energy Material Research Lab (HEMRL), Pune, one of the constituent laboratories of DRDO. Crowe & Company then approached FICCI for licensing agreement with DRDO for the said technology under the DRDO-FICCI Accelerated Technology Assessment Commercialization program that is starting to roll out various DRDO-developed technologies for the international market.

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