Stealthy object detection and recognition

We developed a portable device to automatically detect and recognise potential threats to troops in war zones.

Our idea won funding to be developed into a prototype, in conjunction with partners SEA (Group) Ltd. The idea was put forward by our team of Machine Vision experts, led by Professor Melvyn Smith. It could help soldiers detect camouflaged objects or people and could enhance and recognise the shapes of 3D objects such as guns or explosives hidden under clothing.

The system, based on our expertise in photometric stereo techniques, reveals and enhances subtle shapes and surface details that may not be apparent or are deliberately concealed. Photometric stereo produces a composite image using light from at least three sources linked to a computer to derive detailed information about an object's surface.

The Technical Director of SEA's Defence Division, Peter Cooper, said "Different configurations of the portable device could be used in different task scenarios, for example a compact wearable version could be developed for work at close range, or a portable system for operation by several personnel over greater distances in the field. We look forward to working with UWE Bristol on this challenging project."

The MOD received 467 entries for its Competition of Ideas, over half of which came from universities and small or medium enterprises. 66 of the proposals - about one in seven - were successful and of these 22 contracts were awarded to universities. In all, these projects represent an investment of about £11 million into new ideas to enhance the UK's defence technology strategy.