Researchers Have Developed WiFi-Based X-Ray Vision for Drones

June 20, 2017

2:32 pm

Researchers at University of California, Santa Barbara have proposed a new method for 3D mapping a structure through closed walls. It involves drones.

Yes, that’s right: We’re on more step closer to replicating every single one of Superman’s powers. We now have flying and x-ray vision at the same time. We just need to add the ability to be faster than a speeding train and we’ll be most of the way there.

How It Works

The experiment relied on two autonomous drones, which approached an enclosed brick house. One drone sent out a continuous WiFi signal, while the other drone registered the power of the signal it received back.

“Our proposed approach has enabled unmanned aerial vehicles to image details through walls in 3D with only WiFi signals,” said Yasamin Mostofi, professor of electrical and computer engineering at UCSB and the lead researcher. “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.”

Using this process in real-life circumstances will be significantly more difficult, but the experiment was able to produce a 3D model of the building it mapped. If fine-tuned, the process will have many possible applications, from aiding in search-and-rescue missions to mapping archaeological areas.

Most interestingly, the entire 3D mapping process didn’t require any expensive equipment, as the UCSB site mentions:

“It is noteworthy that their setup consists solely of off-the-shelf units such as copters, WiFi transceivers and Tango tablets.”

When it comes to developing technology for real-world applications, affordability is a huge step in the right direction.

Read more about the latest on drones here on Tech.Co

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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