The plastic 3D printed handgun called the Liberator created a firestorm of controversy when its designs appeared online in May 2013. How could security and airline screening systems detect such a gun when the Liberator's plastic design made it invisible to metal detectors? A British start-up has an answer to that question.
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Radio Physics Solutions is currently seeking crowdfunding for a new radar scanner that can detect concealed guns, as well as knives and explosives, regardless of whether the weapons contain metal.
The scanning system, first developed by researchers at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), has two components. One is the radar-scanning technology itself, which uses harmless low-power microwaves to scan objects up to 25 meters (82 feet) away. These radar waves bounce off objects and return to the scanner in ways that reflect the shape of the object scanned.
The second component, specially designed software, analyzes the returned waves and uses them to determine whether the scanned object is a gun, knife, bomb or other predetermined "threat object."
"It's really a combination of a radar system and an AI-based computer system. It would have been unthinkable to make it just five years ago, because the computing power and hardware were just not there," Professor Nick Bowring, head of MMU's Center for Sensing and Imaging, said in a statement.
The prototype scanner is about the size of a handbag, with the radar emitters and receivers on one end and a screen on the top showing what the device is currently scanning. It also communicates with a laptop running the device's software, which displays a video feed of the scanner's field of view and information about detected threat objects.
Bowring said the device can recognize other objects, such as smartphones and keys, but classifies these as "non-threat items." To assuage privacy concerns, the scanner does not display images of the objects it detects. When it detects a weapon, the scanner issues an alert and signals where on the target's body the weapon is concealed.