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Sunday, January 17th, 2021

Researchers test millimeter wave imager for public transportation security screening

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Researchers recently tested a millimeter wave imager designed to discreetly scan for potential threat items at the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s (MBTA) emergency training center in Boston.

In partnership with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory conducted the three-day developmental test and evaluation.

“Successful testing in a representative environment was a key milestone for the effort,” William Moulder, program lead at Lincoln Laboratory, said.

The technology consists of a set of antennas installed on flat panels. The antennas use low-power radio signals that can penetrate clothing and backpacks but bounce off of certain items to screen commuters from a distance and alert operators of potential threats. The imager is designed to produce high-resolution images in real time without slowing the speed of travel and protect travelers’ privacy through automated anomaly detection.

S&T will use the data from the test to further improve and refine the millimeter wave system. In the project’s next phase, researchers will integrate the millimeter wave prototype with other technologies for layered testing.

“We are developing new techniques and algorithms to try to make sense of, or to turn a microwave image into actionable intelligence or information that security staff can use,” Moulder said. “With this prototype, we are hoping to provide DHS with a clear assessment of what role this technology can play.”

The initiative is part of a program from S&T’s Explosives Division called Surface Transportation Explosive Threat Detection (STETD). The technology has potential uses in various large crowd environments.