Nowhere To HideKiller drones that can see through walls. By William Saletan

Nowhere To HideKiller drones that can see through walls. By William SaletanPosted Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008, at 11:49 AM ET Display from an unmanned aerial vehicleFor the last couple of days, in the Human Nature blog, I’ve been looking into a breakthrough cryptically reported in Iraq and Afghanistan: the ability of U.S. unmanned aerial vehicles to identify and track human targets “even when they are inside buildings.” Several recently reported technologies might account for it, but Slate reader fozzy suggests looking for the answer in a military research field called STTW, usually translated as “sense-through-the-wall.” Has this ability been extended to a distance that allows it to be used by aerial drones? PRINTDISCUSSE-MAILRSSRECOMMEND…SINGLE PAGE YAHOO! BUZZ FACEBOOKMYSPACE MIXX DIGG REDDIT DEL.ICIO.US FURL MA.GNOLIA SPHERESTUMBLEUPONCLOSEFozzy cites a March 2008 Army technical report on the latest progress in STTW radar methods. (Warning: Most of the documents I’m linking to here are PDFs, and some take a long time to open.) With a few more clicks, I pulled up an April 2008 report from the same research team. Both reports focus on “detecting and identifying humans enclosed in building structures.” “Through-the-wall sensing is currently a topic of great interest to defense agencies both in the U.S. and abroad,” says the April report. “The U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) has been active in all these fields of investigation, approaching these issues both through hardware design and radar measurements and through computer simulation of various STTW scenarios.” STTW has been around for a while. A 2006 report from the National Defense University mentions a DARPA system that can “detect the presence of personnel within rooms (stated to be successful through 12 inches of concrete),” as well as a commercially developed system with a “30-foot standoff capability.” The next step, to protect U.S. personnel, is to put the technology on “unattended” mobile devices. Since the initial context is urban warfare, the pioneering client is the Army, and the introductory platform is unmanned ground vehicles. But the goal is to increase “standoff distance” and spread the technology to other platforms.

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