This is the fifth interview in our series featuring the eight Opioid Detection Challenge finalists. We’re introducing each finalist and learning more about how their novel detection plans could quickly and accurately detect illicit opioids in parcels, without disrupting the flow of mail. The finalists are currently participating in a 14-week accelerator to develop their plans into testable prototypes. 

We spoke with Shaun Gidcumb from the Vadum team. The company’s solution is a nuclear quadrupole resonance (NQR) technology that emits radio-frequency pulses to detect specific nitrogen-containing molecules. Illicit substances resonate at different frequencies, allowing detection of targeted compounds.

What inspired you to enter the Opioid Detection Challenge?
Vadum’s primary mission is to provide advanced science and technology solutions that protect military and law enforcement personnel and assets. During our work with bomb squads from various agencies, we recognized how our sensor technologies can be adapted for drug enforcement applications. Exposure to the opioid crisis, professionally and personally, motivates our efforts and supports our business mission.

What sets your opioid detection technology apart from existing solutions?
Vadum’s solution will provide unambiguous opioid detection results through opaque packaging.

What’s the one thing you wish people knew about the role of your solution in the postal inspection process?
Vadum’s solution seeks to drastically reduce the false alarm rate of opioid detection, which will reduce the unnecessary opening of legitimate packages.

What’s your primary focus during the 14-week prototyping accelerator as you advance your solution?
During the 14-week prototyping accelerator our primary focus will be on designing, building, and testing hardware in a form-factor appropriate for inspecting packages.

Read about the other finalists’ detection solutions and subscribe to the Challenge newsletter to read more interviews with finalist teams.