Project Definition


The internationally agreed definition of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) is the following:

”Any device that is fabricated in an improvised manner, incorporating explosives or destructive, lethal, noxious, pyrotechnic, or incendiary chemicals, designed to destroy, disfigure, distract or harass(NATO STANAG AAP6-6+Interagency Intelligence Committee on Terrorism – From Enhancing the security of explosives – Report of the explosive security experts task force. Brussels, 28 June 2007).


The uncontrolled information disseminated in the web and the simultaneous presence of highly trained and graduate personnel enables large populations to prepare and build IEDs containing Improvised Explosives (IE). IE can be realized at home using products that can be bought without any specific authorization (e.g. ammonium nitrate, black pepper, hydrogen peroxide, and other chemical substances). 

The discovery of hidden bomb factories is of primary importance in the prevention of terrorist activities. In particular, the first stage of IED preparation will take considerably more time as compared to the successive phases of transport to the target and deployment. Therefore in the early stages of IED preparation of a terrorist attack, investigations can be conducted with fewer time constraints and with greater accuracy than at later stages.


Once individuals have been identified as potential terrorists intelligence personnel needs to monitor their activities to obtain clues, whether an object might actually be misused as an illicit bomb factory. Currently there are no specific sensors (apart from video and audio monitoring) that are available to survey the presence of precursors or the transformation of such chemical compounds into IEDs inside a suspected object. A variety of sensors, capable of flexible deployment, are needed to cover those substances (vapors, particles, water) that are indicative of IE precursors or actually prepared IEs. Requirements imply that the sensors should be operated in local but distributed networks and that data gathered by such networks should be evaluated by expert operators. Such monitoring activities are necessary to alert counter terrorism units sufficiently in advance of a planned terrorist action.
“To locate the bomb factory” it is necessary to examine different steps. Step 1 concerns monitoring of large areas. This task requires sensors able to detect changes inside an urban/ sub-urban environment. Such sensors should be able of analysing volatile compounds, airborne particle residue as well as traces waterborne in waste water. When a location is spotted (by an alarm in step 1 or by intelligence) it will be possible to deploy other sensors (for example sensors on a mobile unit, like the BONAS MOBILE UNIT, to further narrow down the area where a potential "bomb factory" is being operated. Finally, step 3 is reached when a specific building is suspected. In each step the complementary of the system with law enforcement requirements needs to be considered.
The aim of BONAS is realizing a substantial contribution to the “Early Warning System concerning explosives”, which is “Priority 1” of the “Prevention measures” in the Action Plan on Enhancing the Security of Explosives.


The BONAS project presents the following objectives:

·         To design; develop and test a novel wireless sensor network for increasing citizen protection and homeland security against threats like terrorist attacks, in particular against the threat posed by IED devices. The sensor network will focus on the detection of traces of precursors used in IED production (particulates, gases and /or waterborne) present in the environment surrounding the vicinity of a "bomb factory". This will contribute to the determination of the "factory's location", allowing an early threat thwart.


·         To perform a feasibility study that will assess the usefulness and potential advantages that the BONAS concept will bring about in the future. A cost analysis will also be performed in order to foresee the financial effort associated with the field deployment of such a sensor network as well as its operation and maintenance.


·         To demonstrate the BONAS concept in a close to real-life scenario, implementing all developed network sensors with the aim of evaluating their performance and larger scale deployment potentials.


·         To investigate and prepare the potential future deployment of key sensors aboard a flying platform with a view towards increasing the BONAS network detection capabilities.

Expected Results from BONAS


Project BONAS envisions an innovative future large-scale sensor network able to detect IED preparation substances present in the environment with minimum rate of false alarms and relying on three different layers. The target substances will comprise the traditional explosive substances contained in IEDs and their precursor components (e.g. ammonium nitrate, black pepper, hydrogen peroxide, and other additional chemical substances). The concept is based on a series of increasingly specific tests taking place in increasingly smaller areas – BONAS starts with general tests in relatively large areas (thus ensuring a semi-permanent monitoring capability) and then reduces the search area while at the same time increasing the specificity of the tests performed. Each one of the referred layers will correspond to a different phase of threat detection and to different levels of the wireless sensor network as can be seen here.

Work Breakdown Structure

BONAS project is divided into 9 Work Packages presenting the following content:
  • WP1 - Coordination and Management
  • WP2 - Scenario and Risk
  • WP3 - Sampling Device
  • WP4 - Stand-off Lidar/DIAL sensor
  • WP5 - Quartz Enhanced Photo-Acoustic sensor
  • WP6 - Chipsensors
  • WP7 - Integration, data on-borad processing system development and cost analysis
  • WP8 - Expert system, Validation and Demonstration
  • WP9 - Dissemination and Exploitation