Using only off-the-shelf drones, WiFi transceivers, and Tango-enabled tablets, researchers at UC Santa Barbara have developed a way to perform 3D imaging of objects hidden by walls.
As demonstrated by the lab of professor Yasamin Mostofi, the technique is conceptually simple: Two drones work together, flying around a brick house with a hidden interior. One drone broadcasts a WiFi signal, and the other drone captures the signal from the other side of the house.
According to the UCSB Current, the solution builds on earlier work in sensing and imaging using WiFi. Back in 2010, the lab demonstrated 2D imaging using WiFi signals and terrestrial robots.
“However, enabling 3D though-wall imaging of real areas is considerably more challenging due to the considerable increase in the number of unknowns,” Mostafi said. Unsurprisingly, the secret sauce that makes the experiment successful is the flexibility of the drones.
The researchers pre-defined the path of the drones to capture as much variation as possible in all three dimensions “while maintaining the efficiency of the operation.”
Applications include emergency response, structural monitoring, and archeological discovery. For more technical details, see the project website here.