The new technology - being designed by Newcastle, Manchester Metropolitan and Queen Mary universities - uses electro magnetic waves in order to pick up 'reflections' from concealed guns, gun barrels or knives without the need to be close to the person.
It also uses ‘neural network’ technology - as used in automatic number plate recognition systems - to identify the weapon and ignore everyday items.
The new device is non-intrusive so no image of the person’s body is created.
The research, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is sponsored and supported by the Metropolitan Police and the Home Office Scientific Development Branch.
Newcastle University lead Professor Gui Yun Tian, based in the School of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering, said this was the first time technology had been developed to identify both the hidden weapon and who is concealing it.
Professor Tian, who specialises in sensor technologies at Newcastle University, explained: “Abuse of guns and knives has become a pressing concern regarding public safety.
“Existing systems are very limited. They can detect a metal object but not what the object is. Our new sensor offers a much wider range of possibilities.”
Professor Nick Bowring, from Manchester Metropolitan University and lead investigator on the project said: "This is a world first and a success for British science. This device means UK police will be able to lead the way in accurate mobile gun and knife detection without putting themselves in the line of attack.”
Stuart Ibbotson, Metropolitan Police head of engineering, said: "We are still at early stages and a way off deploying operational capability yet, but so far results are very encouraging.”
Tests are currently being carried out by the Metropolitan Police Operational Technology Department to see how the scanner could work in practice.
If successful, the finished product could be available to police forces within two years.
Source: Newcastle University
Explore further: Skin device uses motion to power electronics