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High Reliability Flame Detector


OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Integrated Sensing and Cyber


OBJECTIVE: Develop a flame detector capable of identifying flaming fires in the quickest amount of time while also discriminating against false and nuisance alarm sources.


DESCRIPTION: Optical Flame Detectors (OFDs) are generally designed for large spaces with the expectation that there will be little to no interference from structural members (e.g., frames, bulkheads, etc.) and personnel. Previous installations on the Navy ships have experienced nuisance and false alarms due to lighting conditions and movement of equipment and personnel in the monitored space.

Each inadvertent Peripheral Vertical Launching System (PVLS) sprinkling event caused by a nuisance or false alarm generated from the flame detector costs ~$270k, resulting from PVLS equipment damage. High false and nuisance alarm rates without an underlining system understanding causes watchstanders to lose confidence in system credibility. This instills watchstander indifference towards alarms/faults potentially resulting in the ship’s force not responding to an actual fire event. The innovative nature of the required work is to transition commercially used technology into a non-ideal environment, represented by the high-traffic open spaces and crowded, compact spaces experienced on Navy vessels.


The Navy is seeking a shipboard qualified flame detector solution that reliably functions in compact, crowded spaces and can be integrated with the Fire Detection and Actuation System (FDAS) Navy Program of Record. Flame detector solutions should indicate power and alarm status at the sensor location and perform an automatic functional self-test. The sensor must integrate into the DDG 1000 FDAS, be adequately sized for shipboard application and meet vibration, EMI, and shock requirements.

Flame detectors should not register a false alarm when directly aimed from 3 feet dead ahead in constant or intermittent sunlight, 100 watt incandescent light, 40 watt fluorescent light, 2-D cell flashlight, and Shielded Metal Arc welding at maximum amperage of two carbon steel plates, or lit cigarette at 1 foot dead ahead.


The flame detector shall be selected based on the radiant emissions expected from the burning fuel or material to be detected and have a discrimination capability to prevent false alarms when exposed to non-fire related radiant emissions. It shall also be capable of detecting a 1 foot by 1 foot n-heptane pane fire in less than 30 seconds at a distance of no less than 60 feet, a 100 kW wood crib fire within 2 minutes at a distance of 60 feet, and a 10 kW propane fire within 5 minutes at a distance of 20 feet as well as other Class A and B fires.


The flame detectors shall be listed or approved in accordance with either FM 3260 or EN 54-10, shall be tested in accordance with MIL-PRF-32226, and shall be able to meet vibration, Electromagnetic Interference (EMI), and shock requirements within MIL-STD-167-1, MIL-STD-461E, and MIL-DTL-901E, respectively.


PHASE I: Develop the concept of a system to detect and evaluate flames with automatic functional self-test which will reduce or eliminate false alarms. Demonstrate the feasibility of the concept in meeting Navy needs. Demonstrate that the flame detector solution can be readily and cost-effectively manufactured through standard industry practices by material testing and analytical modeling. The Phase I Option, if exercised, should include the initial layout and capabilities to demonstrate the application in Phase II.


PHASE II: Develop and deliver a prototype sensor for integration into the DDG 1000 FDAS that is adequately sized for shipboard application and meets vibration, EMI, and shock requirements. Also develop a modular test bed in which prototype evaluation can occur to demonstrate capability to detect flames while eliminating false alarms. Perform testing at a facility determined to be appropriate by the government to prove detection capability as well as false alarm rejection. Final product will be integrated with FDAS Navy Program of Record.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Assist with Navy integration of the flame detector solution into fleet FDAS systems.


Commercial OFDs are used in warehouses and open spaces as fire detection. The developed flame detector can be used in any such application where environmental interference can be expected and alternative methods of fire detection such as smoke and heat detectors are not feasible due to ventilation or tall overheads.



  1. Fang, Xu and Zi, Zhang. “Test on Application of Flame Detector for Large Space Environment.” Procedia Engineering, Volume 52, 2013, pp, 489-494.
  2. Gottuk, Daniel T. “Flame and Smoke Video Image Detection (VID).” SFPE Issue 21: Flame and Smoke Video Image Detection (VID).


KEYWORDS: Fire Detection; Fire Detection and Actuation System; FDAS; Flame Detection; Survivability; Ordnance Safety; Personnel Safety


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