Two research projects aimed at providing soldiers with better data in the field

News Release — 5 July 2011


Media contact: Herb Booth, (817) 272-7075,

ARLINGTON - Qilian Liang, a UT Arlington professor of electrical engineering, has won two Department of Defense grants totaling $585,987 to develop a radar sensor network that will help soldiers detect potential threats obscured by walls or foliage.

Current technology doesn’t link radar sensors in a network or allow for shared information in real time. Liang’s radar sensor network will be capable of providing military troops a web of information about large swaths of land, such as urban areas or a shoreline environment. The system, for example, will be able to provide soldiers information about an entire building rather than a smaller area within lines of sight.

Qilian Liang

Qilian Liang

"In an urban setting, man-made structures or foliage favor hidden threats because the soldier has a limited sensing capability,” Liang said. “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.”

Jonathan Bredow, chair of the UT Department of Electrical Engineering, said Qilian's funding and publication records demonstrate that he is one of the top international researchers in the emerging area of radar sensor networks and applications.

“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 said. “This will be a major boost to UT Arlington’s top-tier research mission.”

The first grant is funded through the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program. It is the result of a merit competition conducted by the Army Research Office, Office of Naval Research and Air Force Office of Scientific Research. According to a defense department news release, more than 800 proposals were submitted, and 165 were funded. The second grant is funded through the Office of Naval Research.

Liang said the radar sensor network his team is developing has the potential for more efficient sensing and data storage, too.

“We want to be judicious in the amount of information we provide soldiers,” Liang said. “We want to give them the very best information so our system will refine the data amount they receive in the field.”

That ability to screen data is based on a new technology called compressive sensing, which can remove the data redundancy and extract the most important information.

“The outcome of this project will enhance naval and Marine Corps soldiers’ capabilities in detecting where threats lie in an urban setting,” Liang said.

The sensor network research could be adapted for domestic use as well, Liang said. He envisions the system being used in airports or at large-scale public events, such as the Super Bowl, as a scanning device that could identify potential threats or find concealed weapons.

In 2003, Liang received the prestigious Young Investigator Award from the Office of Naval Research, one 26 researchers honored from 220 candidates. Since then, Liang has been awarded five major research grants from the Office of Naval Research totaling almost $1.4 million.

Liang’s work is among the innovation under way at The University of Texas at Arlington, a comprehensive research institution of 33,800 students in the heart of North Texas. Visit to learn more.



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