Sensors Help Soldiers Detect Combat Threats

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A UT Arlington engineer hopes to soon give soldiers X-ray vision. Sort of. Qilian Liang, professor of electrical engineering, has won two Department of Defense grants to develop a radar sensor network that will help soldiers detect potential threats on the battlefield that are obscured by walls or foliage. Current technology doesn’t link radar sensors in a network or allow for shared information in real time. In contrast, Dr. Liang’s system will provide troops with a web of information about large swaths of land, such as urban areas or shorelines. For example, the network could tell soldiers about an entire building, rather than just the area within line of sight. “In an urban setting, manmade structures or foliage favor hidden threats because the soldier has a limited sensing capability,” Liang says. “We want to help those soldiers identify what it is they’re seeing through the network in the field. It’s very important they know who and where the threats are.” The sensor network research could be adapted for domestic use as well. Liang envisions the system being used as a scanning device in airports or at large-scale public events—think Super Bowl—to identify potential threats or find concealed weapons. Jonathan Bredow, chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering, says Liang’s funding and publication records demonstrate that he is among the top international researchers in the emerging area of radar sensor networks. “His breakthrough work will enable totally new ways of assessing and responding to security threats in complex environments, which are often of high impact and the most vulnerable,” Bredow says. “This will be a major boost to UT Arlington’s top-tier research mission.”

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