Researchers Unveil Drones That Can See Through Brick Walls Using Only Wi-Fi

Wednesday, 21 June 2017 - 10:35AM
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Wednesday, 21 June 2017 - 10:35AM
Researchers Unveil Drones That Can See Through Brick Walls Using Only Wi-Fi
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons, Impreza54

Move over Kal-El, X-ray vision is no longer just for alien superheroes. Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) have announced a new method that would essentially allow drones to see through walls. Using 3D imaging and WiFi, two drones (in this case, octocopters) working in tandem would be able to "see" a three-dimensional image of what exists on the other side of a wall (or any solid structure).


Image Credit: University of California - Santa Barbara

According to Yasamin Mostofi, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UCSB whose lab this work was accomplished in:



Opening quote
"Our proposed approach has enabled unmanned aerial vehicles to image details through walls in 3D with only WiFi signals...This approach utilizes only WiFi RSSI measurements, does not require any prior measurements in the area of interest and does not need objects to move to be imaged."
Closing quote


While peering through a brick wall was a major challenge, Mostofi says  "...enabling 3D through-wall imaging of real areas is considerably more challenging due to the considerable increase in the number of unknowns", which could conceivably include furniture and electronics. However, if and when this becomes a real-world applicable technology, we will have a lot to be wary of. While this tech could be used for things like "emergency search and rescue, archaeological discovery and structural monitoring," as the research team describes, it could be used for so much more. Police surveillance and military applications could raise many ethical questions about privacy, for one. Because these drones are autonomous and would only need WiFi, theoretically this could be used just about everywhere.

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