A high-tech portable radar scanner which detects hidden bombs and guns on people can revolutionise security at airports, shopping centres and other public places, scientists say. Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) have developed scanners that find concealed weapons in real-time using radar waves and complex computer programmes. The technology is designed to rapidly scan individuals in a crowd as they pass through areas such as public spaces, gates or entrances and instantly alert officials as soon as a threat is detected. The machines work at a distance of up to 25 metres using low-power millimetre-wave radar signals that reflect off a weapon and back to the scanner, but without compromising people's privacy or health. An in-built computer determines the presence of dangerous objects or material and alerts the operator within seconds of detection. The artificial intelligence (AI) in the device differentiates between common items such as keys, belt buckles or mobile telephones from those that present an immediate threat to security and safety. The devices include a handheld system for mobile use in the street and a larger, extended range static version suitable for checkpoints or vehicle mounting. Both scanners are portable, battery powered and, in the case of the static version, can detect threats from 20 to 25 metres away. The prototypes, codenamed MIRTLE and MIRLIN, are currently being turned into commercial versions ready for security services around the world. They will roll of the production line next year with customers already lined up to test the technology. The MMU has signed a commercial agreement with Radio Physics Solutions (RPS) which specialises in translating scientific findings into commercial products. Douglas Dundonald, chairman of RPS, said there is already "significant commercial interest" in the machines. Professor Nick Bowring, Head of the Centre for Sensing and Imaging at MMU, led the team that developed the system. "It will make the world a safer place - there is a significant amount of gun crime that could be stopped, for example.
We know that this technology works and has done very well in trials," Bowring said.