The U.S. Army is looking into stealing a page from law enforcement’s book: using wall penetrating radar to see through obstacles and identify potential threats. This technology has already found use among police, firefighters, and search and rescue teams — and now the Army wants to see if it can also increase the survivability of American troops in urban combat environments.
To this very end the Army conducted its second Expeditionary Technology Search (xTechSearch) competition last month, which saw Lumineye, Inc., of Boise, Idaho, win.
xTechSearch offers small businesses an opportunity to engage directly with the Department of Defense with the aim of fostering an environment that’s more conducive to rapid innovation and adoption of new technologies. Lumineye has already seen success with its wall penetrating radar systems for civilian applications; and now it can use the $250,000 prize money to continue developing the tech for military use.
Corbin Hennen, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Lumineye, and Megan Lacy, co-founder and Chief Design Officer said the following:
“The xTechSearch competition helped us learn a lot along the way. Getting the first bit of funding was important. The funding from phase three was the first significant funding we’ve received, and made a world of difference for us. It showed us true customer support and that the Army was really interested in us. It also allowed us to participate in the Y Combinator accelerator program.”
Systems like Lumineye would allow soldiers to use a handheld device to identify targets and locate potential threats on the other side of an opaque barrier. This could make breaching buildings or rooms significantly safer, as soldiers stacking on the door could already know exactly what to expect as they head into a structure. This application could benefit soldiers in a number of other combat operations as well, including subterranean warfare in tunnel complexes, such as the ones used by Iran or North Korea. Wall penetrating radar can also be used to help in spotting traps, and even in locating hidden rooms or passageways.
According to Lumineye, the handheld device is nine inches long and weighs in at just one point five pounds, but can detect people beyond a barrier at distances reaching 50 feet. While it doesn’t offer a clear image of the room beyond the wall, it can identify a person’s distance from the wall; tell if they’re moving or not; and even detect if a stationary target is breathing.