Portable microwave scanner to help police detect concealed guns and knives

June 9th, 2009 - 2:23 pm ICT by ANI  

London, June 9 (ANI): British scientists have developed a portable microwave scanner to help police identify individuals carrying concealed guns and knives.

According to a report by BBC News, the device is based around microwave radar technology and is designed to pick up the “reflections” of weapons concealed beneath clothing.

It is small enough to be used covertly, at some distance from the subject.

Some officials believe technology like this could help increase the effectiveness of stop-and-search.

The existing prototype is suitable for the detection of guns, but researchers say subsequent versions of the technology will be able to identify concealed knives as well.

The new device employs low-power microwaves to identify weapons, using similar wavelengths as the body scanners currently in use at a number of airports.

Professor Nick Bowring from Manchester Metropolitan University, who led the development of the new device, said it worked on a different principle.

Unlike airport scanners, the portable machine does not produce an image of the subject, it only analyses signals.

“It is designed to work out on the streets and is not (restricted) to a closed, controlled environment,” Professor Bowring told BBC News.

A human operator will transport the device, using it to direct microwave emission at a person of interest.

Return signals - microwaves reflected back towards the device - are picked up, sensed and analyzed.

“The scanner does a lot of computing and processing of the signals it acquires. It puts them all together, analyses them over a short period and makes a decision,” said Professor Bowring.

“It works on the principle that the radar returns from people, when they are carrying a gun or a knife, look different. And we pick up on those small differences,” he added.

Professor Bowring said he and his team had found ways to reduce the numbers of “false positive” readings to a “very low level”.

Because of sensitivities surrounding its use, he could not say what distance the device worked over, but explained it was a “useful stand-off range”.

Tests are currently being carried out by the Metropolitan Police’s operational technology department to see how the scanner could work in practice.

If those trials are successful, a device could become available to police forces within two years.

According to Catherine Coates, head of innovation at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), “This device could save lives and free up valuable policing time currently taken up with gun and knife detection.” (ANI)

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