Thanks to a new innovative system discovered by two University of California, Santa Barbara researchers Yasamin Mostofi and Chitra R. Karanam, mankind will now literally get to see through solid walls. The system which can prove to be useful for emergency search-and-rescue, archaeological discovery and structural monitoring, makes use of two drones, a massive Wi-Fi antenna, and a little interpolation to see through solid walls.

Speaking to UCSB News, Mostofi, who is also a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UCSB, said, “Our proposed approach has enabled unmanned aerial vehicles to image details through walls in 3D with only WiFi signals."

She further added that their approach uses only WiFi RSSI measurements, and does not require any prior measurements in the area of interest and does not require objects to move to be imaged.

The video below initially shows the drone flying around the brick structure idly and that they cannot see what's inside the structure. But, as the waves start penetrating the brick structure, they change as they pass through other structures present behind the wall. After a few passes are done, the drones then start mapping the entire structure in high resolution.



The developed system is basically two-fold. While one drone has the responsibility of blasting Wi-Fi through the structure, the other one is responsible for picking up the signal. After this, the two work together and fly around a solid structure until they have successfully mapped the differences present in the wave strength at different points. The researchers on the project were able to make use of this information to create a 3D model of a closed building.

The team of researchers had initially created 2D models of objects using this technique but they soon developed the 3D models as well. The best thing about the system is that it uses easily available devices including a simple Wi-Fi router present at our homes and a Google Tango tablet. The system also makes use of a Raspberry Pi and Wi-Fi card for the receiver so that the drones are able to communicate with each other and act autonomously.

The system has been developed based on a previous work done in the Mostofi Lab, which had pioneered sensing and imaging with everyday radio frequency signals such as WiFi. The Mostofi Lab is also credited with publishing the first experimental demonstration of imaging with only WiFi seven years ago in 2010. This has been followed by several other works by the lab on the same subject.

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