Radar that ‘sees’ through walls

  • AseanPlus News
  • Saturday, 06 Nov 2004

SINGAPORE defence engineers have developed a radar device that can help rescuers see people trapped in collapsed buildings and let soldiers see through walls to where enemy troops are hiding. 

They hope to make the radar so sensitive that it will be able to detect even minute movements, like a beating heart, from behind a wall. 

Search-and-rescue teams and counter-terrorist forces are two groups that can make use of the portable device being developed here. 

DSO National Laboratories, Singapore's largest defence research and development organisation, said its “through-wall radar surveillance system” had been successfully tested since the project began in mid-2002. Trials involved scanning solid concrete walls, some as thick as 30cm. 

SCIENTIFIC BREAKTHROUGH: Cheong (left) and Tan testing theradar. The black bar on the blue rectangle is the search beam.

Cheong Chee Hoo, head of a radar programme at DSO, said the team was refining the radar's signal processing software so it identified movements better. 

“We want to improve its ability to differentiate between types of movement and from this deduce what is human, and whether it is male, female, armed or unarmed. We also want to make the system more compact, portable and rugged and give it a greater stand-off distance from a wall,” he said. 

If it could be fine-tuned to the point where a heartbeat could be detected from behind a wall, it would be useful for search and rescue operations in collapsed buildings, he said. 

The technology itself is not new. An American company called Time Domain has developed several such sensors, sold only to the US military. 

Through-wall radar works by sending rapid pulses of ultra-wideband electromagnetic energy – about 10 million pulses a second –into brick or concrete walls. This energy penetrates walls easily. The radar then listens out for echoes reflected by objects moving inside. Any movement that is detected disrupts pixels on a computer screen. 

The few countries doing such research preferred to keep the know-how to themselves, said Tan Chee Seng, director (sensors) at DSO. 

He said the Singapore radar was being improved to scan thicker walls, even from 100m or more away, yet kept portable enough for a soldier. Engineers are also working to make the radar sensitive enough to tell if a person is armed. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network  

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