Institute for Non-Lethal Defense Technologies

The Pennsylvania State University established The Institute for Non-Lethal Defense Technologies (INLDT) in November 1998 as part of its overall mission of teaching, research, and public service. The Institute is dedicated to providing a base of multidisciplinary knowledge and technology that supports the development and responsible application of minimal force options for both the military and law enforcement. The Institute is administered by Penn State's Applied Research Laboratory under the direction and support of the Office of the Vice President for Research.

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Penn State established its Institute for Non-Lethal Defense Technologies (INLDT) in 1998 to provide academic/ technical research support to the Department of Defense Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program. Established within Penn State's Applied Research Laboratory (ARL), INLDT is the leading national academic performer for the Department of Defense's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program and unique among universities in the depth and breadth of its non-lethal technology expertise.  The Institute is comprised of Penn State member colleges, departments, organizations and faculty member experts in non-lethal technologies and their collateral effects. This resident expertise provides a multidisciplinary approach to non-lethal science and technology development. In 2007, and again in 2010, INLDT successfully competed nationwide and was designated one of the Department of Justice's technology centers of excellence, specifically the Weapons and Protective Systems Technologies Center (WPSTC).

The Institute supports the Department of Defense and Department of Justice's non-lethal requirements through the following focus areas:

The Human Effects Advisory Panel (HEAP)

This Panel is composed of nationally recognized subject matter experts and formed at the request of the JNLWD to assess and detail the human effects of non-lethal technologies. Over the years, INLDT has convened dozens of HEAPs. Among the topics assessed are the assessment assessed advanced kinetic models (selected thoracic models, head injury models, and head injury criteria), pulsed energy projectile (PEP), experiment exit criteria, incorporation of crowd behavior/dynamics into the Inter-service Non-Lethal Individual Weapons Instructor Course (INIWIC) at JNETC, Interim Total Body (ITBM) Road Map, characterization of non-lethal weapons (NLWs), Area Denial System (ADS), Riot Control Agent Comparison Study, selected animal models, and assessment of the SAS-035 NLW Effectiveness Framework. INLDT is continuing to conduct HEAPs, and the related Technical Effectiveness Advisory Panels (TEAPs), for the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD), in Quantico, Virginia.

Technical Assessments

INLDT also conducts independent technical assessments for many of the JNLWD NLW technologies. Additionally, similar work is ongoing in support of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). These assessments follow the straightforward, broadly accepted methodology of the HEAPs and provide the research sponsors programmatic and technical recommendations before major program decisions are made.

Research and Development

The research efforts conducted through and with INLDT have ranged from the characterization of the Taser waveform to the development of specialized test equipment to capture parametric data on impact forces of blunt trauma munitions.  In addition to extensive non-lethal munitions characterization, and a significant biological research effort into the commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) Human Electro-Muscular Incapacitation (HEMI) technology, INLDT has been the primary developer of the Distributed Sound and Light Array (DSLA) prototype system in several forms for several different platforms.  More recently, INLDT has been at the cutting edge in research into carbon nanotube acoustics.


Penn State teaches the elective "Non-Lethal Weapons:  Supporting the Operational Art Across the Range of Military Operations" at all of the DoD’s professional military education (PME) venues. These courses are presented at the National Defense University, Army War College, Air War College, Naval War College, Joint Forces Staff College, Army Command and General Staff College, Air Command and Staff College, and USMC Command and Staff College. Additionally, INLDT completed the report, "Combatant Commander Engagement: Non-Lethal Weapons Training and Education Road Map" for the JNLWD, which has served as a chart for the Directorate in addressing current and future education and training needs.

Policy Analysis

INLDT has a global reputation as a leader in the area of examining the technologies, tactics, and public policies surrounding the responsible application of NLW force options.  The International Law Enforcement Forum was founded by INLDT in 2001. The Forum has been providing the opportunity for professional discussion by practitioners on the development of new concepts, operational analysis, and operational requirements in the area of minimal force options and less-lethal technologies. It continues to provide and foster subject matter expertise in operations, policy, technical evaluation, testing, training, human/ medical effects, accountability, and law, both domestically and internationally through workshops and conferences. The United Kingdom's Home Office and its Northern Ireland Office (NIO) have both used the Penn State-sponsored ILEF workshops and reports to support and sustain the progress of peace and stability in Northern Ireland through the better understanding of less-lethal options for policing.

Additional specific contributions have been, or are being, made in the following areas:

  • Representation (trusted agent) of the JNLWD on the Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration, a 6+ year, $250M DoD program
  • Critical assessment of the biological mechanisms associated with extended Taser applications, swine research on conducted energy in collaboration with the College of Agriculture's Central Biological (Animal) Diagnostics lab
  • Quick-look assessment of the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) resulting in an operator/target safety card for use by Marines and soldiers "in the field"
  • "Best of breed" evaluation of all commercially available Acoustic Hailing Devices (AHDs) under consideration for procurement by the Department of Defense
  • Prototyping of specialized, fast-curing material (and delivery system) for the rapid denial of access to stockpiled or discovered weapons caches
  • Development of individual short course modules in CD/DVD format for enhanced professional military non-lethal technology education for US armed forces
  • Production of a photographic/video-style montage depicting conceptually how an acoustic device might be employed and effective within an operational environment
  • Development of a multimedia (Fayette) simulation for training support to the Escalation of Force (EoF) approach (non-lethal to deadly) to the employment of force
  • Conducting a technical and operational feasibility study of non-lethal applications of the Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) through modeling and experimentation of an expanded set of target materials (cinder block, aluminum, steel, and painted and unpainted surfaces) to better assess the risk of unintended collateral damage