Sandia’s super sensor system

Sandia National Laboratories have developed an integrated detection system that promises to make it easier to monitor, identify and catch perpetrators trying to infiltrate prohibited areas.

The research team, headed by project investigator Hung Nguyen, set out to discover how small, low-cost, low-power, commercially available sensors can supplement their in-house customised sensors. During that time, numerous projects – Target Acquisition, Location, Observation, and Neutralisation (TALON), Hard and Deeply Buried Target Grand Challenge (HDBT), Sensor Dart, and Virtual Perimeter System (VPS) – contributed to the advancement of unattended ground sensor (UGS) technology.

As a result, Sandia has created a sensor system complete with onboard GPS, compass, local and long haul radios, digital signal processor, and video capabilities. However, it is significantly larger than the off-the-shelf sensors and is not currently available for mass production.

‘We wanted inexpensive sensors to act as a first line of defence identifying potential targets and then through a series of radio signals wake up the UGS package. The Sandia-developed UGS package could then use advanced pattern-recognition techniques to classify four-legged animals, two-legged humans, or civilian and military vehicles,’ says Nguyen. ‘The significance of this is that by combining commercial sensors with our UGS, we can cover more ground for less.’

The integration of the more powerful sensor and the smaller ones will increase detection range, lower false alarms, and increase the area of coverage without increasing cost in complex terrains.

The commercial sensors, provided by Crossbow Technology, were modified with Sandia algorithms and some minor hardware changes. They can be powered by either a battery or solar panel, depending on customer needs. The sensor uses a geophone equipped with a 10cm pointed spike planted in the ground to detect movement by measuring seismic waves. Any events detected are reported back to the UGS via a self-configuring and self-healing seamless network.

The next step is to seek out customers interested in both advancing and deploying this architecture. These sensors will also become part of Sandia’s intrusion detection work.