Call it the Ford Narc.
In the near future, police cruisers could detect drug labs just by sniffing the air as they lower a street, CBC DFW reports (via Autoblog), just about all thanks to a device constructed by a team in the University of Northern Texas.
The highly delicate mass spectrometer, calibrated in the clean air climes associated with Antarctica, was installed in the front seat of a Ford Fusion Energi sedan 8 months ago.
Originally designed to test air quality, the unit – built with the aid of Inficon of Syracuse, New York — is now tasked with discovering something much more clandestine than simple smog. Chemicals used in medication making?- meth, especially – waft out of homes and apartments whether their owners like it or not, and the device can pinpoint that chemical substance signature from a quarter-mile away.
“The car could just drive by it and moving down the road,” Dr. Guido Verbeck told the Cbs television studios affiliate. “It’ll alert the officers there is something going on at the house, and where the location is actually.”
Given the sensitive nature of the equipment, it’s easy to see why they chose a plug-in hybrid for their test vehicle.
A fine-tuned bit of technology is of small use if the operator can’t decipher check results, so the group whipped up software which analyzes the data and tells a police officer exactly what the car is smelling.
“The operator, or even the tactical person using it, does not have to know anything about mass specification, they just know that this is bad,” Verbeck said.
As useful a tool as this might be for law enforcement, the exam contraption was as well bulky for use inside a police cruiser. The team then miniaturized this, so it could squeeze into a portable case.
Police forces have a habit of investing in things that make administration and crime-solving easier, therefore the makers (and eventual marketers) of this technology are sitting on a gold mine.