These Drones Were Able To See Through Walls And Make 3D Images Using Wi-Fi


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer

One drone sent WiFi signals, the others received them. Mostofi et al/University of California, Santa Barbara

A team of researchers has developed a technique to see through walls using Wi-Fi signals sent and received by drones.

The research was carried out by the University of California, Santa Barbara. Led by Professor Yasamin Mostofi, the team was able to create 3D maps of locations that were otherwise invisible.


“Imaging through walls is in general a considerably challenging problem, especially if we are interested in imaging through brick or concrete walls,” Mostofi told IFLScience. “We have now shown how to image details through walls in 3D with only Wi-Fi, using unmanned aerial vehicles.”

The use of drones allowed the researchers to autonomously map out the room. One drone sends out a Wi-Fi signal, and the other receives it. By flying in a particular pattern, this technique can reveal structure and objects beyond a wall.

Left is the real image, middle is a true 3D image, and right is what the drones saw. Mostofi et al/University of California, Santa Barbara

In an experiment, two autonomous “octocopters” (eight propellers) were used to fly outside a four-sided brick house. The interior was unknown to the drones. By sending and receiving Wi-Fi signals, they generated a 3D high-resolution image of the objects inside. And the resulting 3D image was very similar to what was actually inside.

With the drones being autonomous, they could map out a specific robotic path to study as much of the unknown area as possible. Some intricate modeling was then used to produce the resulting 3D image.


“There are several potential applications [of the research],” said Mostofi. “Emergency response, archeological discovery, and structural monitoring, for instance, are a few examples.”

You can check out a video of the drones in action, and how the research was done, below.


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