These drones use Wi-Fi to see through brick walls

Would you be interested in a Superman-esque ability to see through walls? Have a couple of Wi-Fi-equipped drones at your disposal? Then you may be able to take advantage of some neat new research coming out of the lab of University of California, Santa Barbara electrical and computer engineering professor Yasamin Mostofi.

Mostofi and her researchers developed a system that allows two drones working together to generate detailed images of objects through walls, using only Wi-Fi RSSI measurements. In a proof-of-concept demonstration, one drone flew outside an enclosed four-sided brick structure with an unknown interior. While flying, it transmitted a Wi-Fi signal, which was then measured by the other drone.

While this is done, some smart algorithms then model the 3D unknown area of interest using some highfalutin technology such as a Markov Random Field to measure its spatial dependencies. Although the image generated isn’t 100 percent perfect, it’s impressively accurate in broadly stating what is behind a particular wall. Making it even more impressive is the fact that the prediction can be achieved with a very small number of Wi-Fi measurements, and uses only off-the-shelf technology such as commercially-available drones, Wi-Fi transceivers, and Tango tablets.

While the idea of using Wi-Fi signals to see through walls has been explored by other researchers, the fact that Mostofi’s work employs drones opens up a plethora of new possible uses.

“There are several potential applications, such as emergency response, archeological discovery, and structural health monitoring, that can benefit from obtaining a high-resolution 3D image of an unknown area through walls with everyday Wi-Fi signals,” Mostofi told Digital Trends. “For instance, consider structural health monitoring for bridges. It would be very helpful if unmanned aerial vehicles can fly around a bridge, especially in the hard to access areas, and image the details inside to assess the health of the bridge.”

From here, Mostofi said that the team is working to improve the work and find new possibilities and potential implementations.

“The general area of sensing and learning about our environment with everyday radio frequency signals, such as Wi-Fi, is one of the major research thrusts of my lab,” she said. “From our past experience, there are good commercialization opportunities in this general area.”


Asus built a screen into a touchpad. Is it the future of computing or a gimmick?

Asus needed its newest ZenBook Pro to stand out against a crowd of 15-inch notebooks, and it chose to dramatically remake the old-school touchpad as the cornerstone of its efforts. It’s an interesting idea held back by some limitations.
Emerging Tech

Credit card-size device could slash the price of ultrasound sensors

An unassuming device developed by engineers at the University of British Columbia could pave the way for ultrasounds scanners that cost as little as $100. Barely bigger than a credit card, it is mobile and can be powered by a smartphone.
Smart Home

Apple HomePod can now make calls, set timers, and more

Apple's latest software update for its HomePod smart speaker is bringing some interesting new features like support for multiple timers and the ability to make and answer phone calls. It's available September 17.
Emerging Tech

The history of drones in 10 milestones

Drones are flying high today -- both figuratively and literally. Want to know how things got this way? Here are 10 of the most significant milestones in the history of UAVs so far.
Emerging Tech

The best 3D printers of 2018

On the hunt for a new 3D printer? We've got your back. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned veteran, this list of the best 3D printers has what you're looking for.
Emerging Tech

Confused by too many e-cigarette options? We found the best of the best

From disposables to mechanical and box mods, here’s our list of the best e-cigarettes available on the market today to help you kick the cigarette habit.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Self-balancing skates, tiny tripods, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

7 drone crashes that will make you fly your bird more carefully

If you've been getting a bit reckless with your drone and suspect you may be heading toward a spectacular crash, then these messy drone mishaps should help you avoid such a calamity.
Emerging Tech

From flying for fun to pro filmmaking, these are the best drones you can buy

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Emerging Tech

Is California going to launch its own satellite to monitor climate change?

California Governor Jerry Brown is serious about dealing with climate change. At a recent summit, he announced his plans for the state to launch a satellite in order to help monitor and fight climate change.
Emerging Tech

Giant NASA space laser satellite to gauge impact of climate change on ice sheets

NASA has launched its most advanced space laser satellite in history as part of a $1 billion mission to reveal how climate change has been affecting the Earth’s ice sheet surface elevation.
Emerging Tech

Cheesy Kickstarter campaign wants to bring solar energy to students in East Africa

A playful new Kickstarter campaign aims to supply remote communities with a steady source of renewable electricity while giving backers a handful of dairy-inspired tech devices. The campaign, SunMade Cheese, is the newest venture from Yolk…
Emerging Tech

Forget hands — this 3D-printed clock keeps time using nothing but marbles

Based on the innovative rolling ball clock design created by Harley Mayenschein in the 1970s, this awesome 3D-printed variation is yours to make at home, courtesy of free instructions.

We get up close with the Vision iNext concept to learn about BMW’s future

Through a massive worldwide campaign that visits various major cities around the world, we get our exclusive opportunity to get up close and personal with BMW’s latest Vision iNEXT Concept to learn about automaker’s future plans.