Secret messages, hidden troops, malicious computer programs, and rust, all trying to sneak by unnoticed.
These 16 technologies were invented in Department of Defense laboratories to sense what is otherwise invisible.
All 16 inventions are available to businesses that would turn them into new products and services.
Micro-balloon stealth signal identification and interruption
Navy researchers have developed a ground-deployable RF surveillance system. The system utilizes an electronic projectile containing a balloon and electronics payload launched from a hand-held unit. The payload is outfitted with transceiver instruments to detect sources of radio frequency transmissions within a defined geographic area. Upon reaching a particular height, the balloon and instrumentation are deployed from the projectile. After deployment, balloon elevation may be selected with a remotely controlled helium or hydrogen canister which provides lift. Multiple electronic projectiles and balloons may be utilized to expand the desired geographic area of coverage. More information
Instruction set morphing malware blocker
Air Force researchers have developed a computing method that morphs instruction code sets either as the result of a suspected breach, an actual malicious software code attack or simply as periodical preventive maintenance. Encrypting the morphing patterns prevents malicious attackers from acquiring knowledge of morphed software code. The method is amenable to multi-processor systems in a majority voting configuration where any processor producing an inconsistent result is taken offline and its instruction set is re-morphed. Memory addresses and conditional branch instructions can also be morphed to cause out-of-bounds address attempts or non-execution of instructions, respectively. Coupling instruction morphing with multicore architectures and triple modular redundancy techniques further enhances detection of malicious code and recovery from malicious code attacks, while providing resilience to attacks. More information
Suicide bomb detection using Doppler radar
To detect suicide bombers preparing to attack public places and other high-value targets, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School invented a method to detect persons wearing wires or a significant amount of metal that might be part of an explosive device. The technology utilizes Doppler radar to compare the vertical and horizontal polarization cross-sections for a person, with a detection threshold, to determine whether the person is concealing a bomb. Circular metal cylinders have strong radar cross sections and the incident electric field of the radar signal can excite strong currents in wires that can likewise be detected. More information
Fixed and moving object detection in video
Air Force researchers have developed the Flux Tensor with Split Gaussian (FTSG) models able to detect moving objects that stop and start moving again. The main features of the invention are motion computation based on spatio-temporal tensor formulation, a split Gaussian method to separately model foreground and background, a multi-cue comparison module to remove false detections due to illumination changes, shadows etc., and to differentiate stopped objects from the revealed background by removed objects. The invention outperforms most well-known systems on key image tracking parameters. More information
Chemical detection in a small, inexpensive, handheld platform
Navy researchers have developed a handheld device that is capable of trace gas analyte identification. The enabling technology includes a highly evanescent optical waveguide with a hyper sorbent polymer. These waveguides may permit the reversible detection of Raman spectra at parts-per-billion (ppb) analyte concentrations in waveguide lengths less than approximately 1 cm. The planar waveguides are implemented in a photonic integrated circuit (PIC) and thus allow for manufacturing scalability, cost savings, standardization, small size and weight as well as power efficiency. More information
Laser system with image enhancement can detect and ID objects in turbid media
Detection of objects in cloudy seawater is of particular importance to the Navy and to that point, researchers have developed a novel image enhancer which matches an RF reference signal to the backscatter phase such that they can be analyzed separately. The image enhancer includes a laser for emitting a signal toward an object in the cloudy medium and a modulator for changing the intensity of the signal. An RF source drives the modulator and provides a reference signal, the reflection of which is received by an optical detector. From there, the detector converts the optical signal into an electrical signal with RF and DC components. An in-phase and quadrature (I/Q) demodulator mixes the RF component of the electrical signal with the reference signal and produces I/Q signal components that can be filtered, digitized, and processed such that both contrast and range images of the object are produced. More information
Advanced before-and-after image comparison
Navy software developers patented a fast and accurate algorithm based on image geometry rather than how the image is stored. Results are dramatic, showing a 10 times increase in effectiveness. This makes the algorithm very robust and accurate to lighting changes and noise. While many other techniques exist, this new algorithm is far more accurate. NAWCWD developed and tested the code in-house using aerial imagery collected on the ranges and using industry standard databases. These automated image processing algorithms help reduce the manpower required to analyze a large database of images. Work on this technology began in 2007 and has steadily evolved. More information
Explosives, drugs, or lead detection device
In 2009, the DoD required a multi-test field kit that was small, lightweight, rugged, and had a one-year shelf life with the ability to operate in a variety of field environments (hot/cold/high/low humidity). Researchers at China Lake answered the call and invented a field colorimetric test device that does not require gloves and is easy to use, accurate and foolproof, refillable, disposable, and can detect anything that gives a colorimetric response to solid or liquid reagents. Professionals estimate that the remarkable invention has shown a 50 percent improvement over prior technology. The system is also adaptable, like a first-aid kit, and comes in a convenient all-in-one small packet. In addition, it has a sample now, analyze later capability. More information
Drift tube amplifier for enhanced chemical detection
To enhance the lower limit of chemical detection, Navy engineers have developed an improved amplifier consisting of a current-to-voltage converter specific for extremely low-output current, a bandpass filter for reducing unwanted noise, a voltage controlled amplifier, and a logarithmic ratio converter for transferring the voltage from a linear to a log scale. This conversion creates a compressive effect and increases the dynamic range of the output. More information
Non-invasive corrosion sensor
The Navy battles corrosion across operations and to that point has developed, tested, and patented a technology for a non-invasive corrosion sensor. This innovative technology works based on the Peltier effect, the principle that a temperature change is created by passing a current through the junction of two semiconductors. Working in reverse, exposing each side of a thermoelectric module to a different temperature creates a current. The corrosion process produces heat, which generates a measurable current. By using a system of two Peltier sensors, it is possible to detect and quantify corrosion in real-time. More information
Structural fatigue measurement
Due to the need to tightly monitor metal fatigue in high-performance aircraft structures, the Navy has developed a method and apparatus to detect metal stress earlier than traditional non-destructive test instruments. The system calls for mounting a fatigue gauge made from the identical material in the component under test. An electrical power source repeatedly applies current to the gauge – a coupon approximately 6 inches in length – and resistance is measured over time. These coupons could be mounted on in-service aircraft, without the electrical source, removed at periodic intervals, and resistance-tested for fatigue. Such testing would provide insights into the effects of fatigue on aircraft flying particular missions and could inform maintenance schedules and inspections. More information
Two-band, real-time, infrared imaging device
Commercially available infrared imaging systems which are designed to provide video, have limited dynamic range, operate in a single band, and if configured to operate as thermographs, are calibrated in temperature, not absolute radiance. To address the above, Navy researchers have developed a two-band imaging system which uses a dual-chrome component for radiometric measurement of objects. This system is designed to take the place of two cameras and solve the issue of spatial and temporal registration arrays. With the dual-chrome, the end user is able to see dim and bright objects in the same image, without distortion and in real-time (within nanoseconds). This technology offers an improvement over the existing single-band imaging systems, by allowing the end user the opportunity to see simultaneous imaging of both radiance level (brightness of an object) and temperature (how hot or cold an object is), whereas the single-band imagers only offer one or the other. In certain situations, for example for inspecting air panels separating on a hot aircraft engine, or for a sensor tasked to identify a target in a field of view, a dual-band imaging system would be able to better detect this problem or identify the target. More information
Low-light night vision imaging and video capture
Army researchers have developed a device operating as a direct-view, compact short-wave infrared viewer-detector array sensitive to the visible, near IR, and SWIR regions. An atmospheric phenomenon called night sky radiance emits five to seven times more illumination than starlight, nearly all of it in the SWIR wavelengths. Thus, with a SWIR camera and this night radiance – often called nightglow – it is possible to see objects with great clarity on moonless nights. This allows more photonic radiation to be used to create an image. In addition, SWIR illumination can be used to aid the sensitivity of the SWIR device. More information
Explosive residue detection kit
Army researchers have developed explosive detection reagent compositions comprising a RuEDTA complex, a binuclear aromatic hydroxyl (BAH) compound, and a lanthanum salt for detecting explosives containing chlorate and hydrogen peroxide. Derivatives of chlorate are strong oxidizers, readily available, and easily detonable when mixed with fuel. Hydrogen peroxide is a strong liquid oxidizer and is used in many explosive organic peroxides. The technology can be altered to detect ammonia and urea – also common and easily available explosive compound components – through the use of sodium phenoxide. Nitrates are detected with this invention via tartaric or citric acid, sulfanilamide, and zinc. More information
Remote human detection using radio waves
Through a novel use of radio waves, this Navy-developed system can determine if the movement was caused by a human, an animal, the type of animal, or a machine. If a human is involved, the system can determine if the intruder is armed. The system works by scanning an area of interest while no intrusion is present. This provides a baseline signature. Similar signatures of machines, indigenous animals, and mankind are stored in the device’s database. When an intrusion occurs the device compares the signature against its database of baseline signatures and determines if a threat is present. This system can be placed in security devices used in the military, at home or business, and at border crossings. More information
Explosives and contraband detection system
This Navy innovation measures the frequency response of a vehicle to determine if the vehicle is concealing contraband. The vibrations created by the vehicle’s engine while it is running provide the input force, and lasers are used to measure the frequency response. This response is compared to a sample library, and a margin of error is applied. If the measurement of the frequency response falls outside allowable margins, the system will flag the vehicle for further inspection. This invention may find utility at security checkpoints for vehicle inspection, contraband and explosives detection, and for remote cargo scanning. More information
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