Dolphins inspire rescue radar device

Oct 22, 2013
A dolphin performs on August 11, 2013 at the Marineland animal exhibition park in the French Riviera city of Antibes, southeastern France

British engineers said Wednesday they had taken inspiration from dolphins for a new type of radar device that could easily track miners trapped underground or skiers buried in an avalanche.

The device, like dolphins, sends out two pulses in quick succession to allow for a targeted search for , cancelling any background "noise", the team wrote in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

With more accuracy and speed than conventional , their device was able to pick up roadside bombs, bugging devices or mobile phones even in areas with a lot of metal "clutter", said study co-author Timothy Leighton of the University of Southampton's engineering faculty.

The team also built a small, cheap tracker that can be placed in the helmet of a miner or search and rescue worker or even a skier's boots and found with their device, said Leighton.

He said the research was triggered by curiosity of how dolphins can "see" beyond the vast clouds of bubbles they blow to herd their prey into smaller groups for feeding.

"I was thinking to myself that should not be able to see fish with their sonar in these bubble clouds unless they are doing something very clever that manmade sonar cannot," said the scientist.

"I sat and thought: 'If I was a dolphin what kind of would I send out in order to see these fish in bubble clouds?' and then I decided on a pulse that was a positive and negative pulse."

This is an image of the TWIPR diode target. Credit: University of Southampton

And so he built a radar system that sends out pulses in pairs, with the second having the reverse polarity of the first. Ordinary radar sends out a single radio pulse.

When the new, twin pulses hit wood or foliage, rocks or most metals, you get back the same two pulses you had sent out: a positive and a negative—effectively cancelling each other out, said Leighton.

"But if it hits a semiconductor device, then it takes that pulse of a negative polarity and turns it into a positive polarity. It makes everything positive. They come back very strongly because you're adding a positive to a positive so you get a very strong signal."

The team then took it further, building a semiconductor tracker that weighed less than 2.0 grammes, cost under a euro and was easily picked up by the new device.

"If you have rescue workers going into a building that might collapse or mineworkers going underground, you can give them these and it will tell you exactly where they are and who they are because you can tune them to identify the person," said Leighton.

But even if a person did not have the tag when they were in a building that collapsed, the could be used to trace cellphones even if they were switched off or their batteries were dead.

As for the dolphin: while acting as an inspiration for the technology, Leighton and his team later discovered this was not how the animals' worked.

Dolphins also send out twin pulses, but theirs vary in amplitude, not polarity, he said.

Explore further: Fishing threatens rare dolphins in tourist hotspot, study says

More information: Radar clutter suppression and target discrimination using twin inverted pulses: rspa.royalsocietypublishing.org/lookup/doi/10.1098/rspa.2013.0512

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Do dolphins use nonlinear mathematics?

Jul 18, 2012

Research from the University of Southampton, which examines how dolphins might process their sonar signals, could provide a new system for man-made sonar to detect targets, such as sea mines, in bubbly water.

TWIPS -- sonar inspired by dolphins

Nov 17, 2010

Scientists at the University of Southampton have developed a new kind of underwater sonar device that can detect objects through bubble clouds that would effectively blind standard sonar.

Recommended for you

Quantenna promises 10-gigabit Wi-Fi by next year

1 hour ago

(Phys.org) —Quantenna Communications has announced that it has plans for releasing a chipset that will be capable of delivering 10Gbps WiFi to/from routers, bridges and computers by sometime next year. ...

New US-Spanish firm says targets rich mobile ad market

2 hours ago

Spanish telecoms firm Telefonica and US investment giant Blackstone launched a mobile telephone advertising venture on Wednesday, challenging internet giants such as Google and Facebook in a multi-billion-dollar ...

Environmentally compatible organic solar cells

2 hours ago

Environmentally compatible production methods for organic solar cells from novel materials are in the focus of "MatHero". The new project coordinated by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) aims at making ...

Twitter rules out Turkey office amid tax row

2 hours ago

Social networking company Twitter on Wednesday rejected demands from the Turkish government to open an office there, following accusations of tax evasion and a two-week ban on the service.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Quantenna promises 10-gigabit Wi-Fi by next year

(Phys.org) —Quantenna Communications has announced that it has plans for releasing a chipset that will be capable of delivering 10Gbps WiFi to/from routers, bridges and computers by sometime next year. ...

Unlocking secrets of new solar material

(Phys.org) —A new solar material that has the same crystal structure as a mineral first found in the Ural Mountains in 1839 is shooting up the efficiency charts faster than almost anything researchers have ...

Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis

When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects—specifically, ...

New US-Spanish firm says targets rich mobile ad market

Spanish telecoms firm Telefonica and US investment giant Blackstone launched a mobile telephone advertising venture on Wednesday, challenging internet giants such as Google and Facebook in a multi-billion-dollar ...