By David Pierce in Wired Magazine’s “Danger Room”
Soldiers can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound, yet. Seeing through walls — that’s a different story. Later this year, American troops fighting in Afghanistan will begin to get gadgets designed to peer inside buildings and detect the heartbeat of people buried under rubble. It’s not exactly Superman’s x-ray vision. But it’s not that far way from it, either.
These Eagle handheld scanners, which look “like a cross between a video game controller and an oversized cell phone,” according to Defense News, work by sending out low-power, wideband radio-frequency signals toward a target, and measuring how the signals bounce back. A signal coming from a person will return differently than one from dirt or concrete, which will return differently than a signal bouncing off of concrete a few feet further away.
The handheld receiver decodes these signals, and displays the image it saw on the screen of the device, creating a picture of what’s happening on the other side of the wall, or 10 feet underground. The device also has a wireless connection to a computer, so it can immediately send the image for processing and analysis.
TiaLinx, the company behind the Eagle sensors, told Defense News that the scanners can detect a person or animal 20 feet behind an 8-inch thick slab of concrete. That technology has piqued the interest of the military, as well as the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department, and other organizations from police bureaus to utility companies.