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Radar robot can hear you breathe - through walls

posted 24 Feb 2011, 08:46 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 24 Feb 2011, 08:48 ]

You can run but you cannot hide from the Cougar20-H, a small but highly sophisticated surveillance robot developed by a company in California. The Cougar can detect the breathing of a human through a concrete wall and while it was designed initially for the military, it could also eventually be adapted for use in rescue missions like those currently underway in earthquake-hit New Zealand.

There's no point in hiding from the Cougar20-H. This little robot can detect your breathing, even behind a cement wall.

"Radio waves are bouncing from the person and when the person is breathing there's a small movement of the chest. I mean it's very small. You can't probably see it but the radio waves can detect it," says Mikko Oijala, DSP for Principal Engineering at TiaLinx, the bot's manufacturer.

California-based TiaLinx developed the Cougar20-H with funding from the US army. It is the latest in a series of super-sensitive radars using the company's fine beam ultra-wideband (UWB), multi-gigahertz radio frequency sensor array.

"Originally the products were developed to be able to detect unexploded ordinance, in road, off road. As time went out and we could really master the technology, we could even detect the slightest movements," says Dr Fred Mohamadi, CEO of TiaLinx.

By mounting the radar on a remote-controlled robot, the company is able to provide what it calls "enhanced situational awareness" to law enforcement personnel performing standoff surveillance in dangerous situations or on difficult terrain. Cougar20-H can be operated from a laptop computer more than 300 feet away.

But Mohamdi also sees the eventual application for the technology in other fields. He says rescue operations like those underway in the earthquake-devastated city of Christchurch in New Zealand might one day benefit from the robot's breath-detection abilities.

"There are a lot of good applications for that now, such as rescue operations. If people have been buried under rubble, we can detect that, and we're hoping, we're doing some research, to be able to detect people under an avalanche," says Mohamadi.

The Cougar20-H could also be used to monitor border traffic, both by scanning vehicles for signs of human trafficking and detecting underground tunnels.

The company says the 20H will be making its real world debut next month when its expected to be put to use by law enforcement and government agencies.