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), The 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, the INLDT successfully competed nation-wide and was designated one of the Department of Justice's technology centers of excellence, specifically the Weapons & Protective Systems Technologies Center (WPSTC)

The Institute supports Department of Defense and the 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 is formed at the request of the JNLWD to assess and detail the human effects of non-lethal technologies.  Over the years, the 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), the pulsed energy projectile (PEP), experiment exit criteria, incorporating crowd behavior/dynamics into the Inter-service Non-Lethal Individual Weapons Instructor Course (INIWIC) at JNETC, the Interim Total Body (ITBM) Road Map, the characterization of NLWs, the Area Denial System (ADS), a Riot Control Agent Comparison Study, selected animal models, an assessment of the SAS-035 non-lethal weapon (NLW) Effectiveness Framework.  The 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

The 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 provides 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, The INLDT has been the primarily 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 DOD’s professional military education (PME) venues.  These courses are presented at the National Defense University, the Army War College, the Air War College, the Naval War College, the Joint Forces Staff College, the Army Command & General Staff College, the Air Command & Staff College and the USMC Command & 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

The 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 the 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
  • A 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"
  • A "best of breed" evaluation of all commercially available Acoustic Hailing Devices (AHDs) under consideration for procurement by the Department of Defense
  • The prototyping of specialized, fast-curing material (and delivery system) for the rapid denial of access to stockpiled or discovered weapons caches
  • The development of individual short course modules in CD/DVD format for enhanced professional military non-lethal technology education for US armed forces
  • Produced a photographic/video-style montage depicting conceptually how an acoustic device might be employed and effective within an operational environment
  • Developing 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, painted and unpainted surfaces) to better assess the risk of unintended collateral damage