Seeing through walls

Cambridge Consultants has successfully demonstrated a low frequency radar system that has the ability to detect the location and movement of people inside buildings, or simply breathing beneath rubble.

Cambridge Consultants Ltd. (CCL) has successfully demonstrated a low frequency radar system that has the ability to detect the location and movement of people inside buildings, or simply breathing beneath rubble.

CCL hopes to turn its proof-of-concept demonstrator into products for military personnel and emergency services in situations such as sieges, urban warfare, fire and rescue.

The technology stems from CCL’s work in developing anti-collision radar for automobile safety applications, which led the company to devise a technique for sensing radar reflections that is extremely compact. As a result, a through-the-wall version of the system can be packaged in a battery-powered case that is around the size of a laptop computer.

‘This radar delivers the kind of high-level location information that could really tip the balance in favour of rescuers in a broad range of time-critical situations, like the aftermath of an earthquake or explosion, or a hostage situation,’ notes CCL Associate Director, Gordon Oswald.

Positioned against a wall – or even some meters away – the system transmits low frequency radar pulses that will pass through building materials up to 25 cm thick, and detect objects and movement in the internal space. The array of antenna sensors allows the system to not only sense objects in a horizontal plane, but in elevation, too, making it possible to deliver meaningful views of what is happening inside a room or under ground.

In addition to creating a demonstration hardware unit, the technology consultancy has produced example software applications that display the data in user-friendly ways. These include plan and elevation views of internal spaces, using icons and colours to provide meaningful information on objects inside – showing whether they are static or moving, for example, and traces of movement.

CCL’s through-wall radar system can be produced with a field of view of up to 120 degrees, and a range of between 5 and 10 metres.

The company now seeks to assemble a consortium of organisations interested in exploiting this technology in their operations.