The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is working with a technology developer on a tool called Detect Presence of Life (DePLife™), a radar-based system that distinguishes between living and nonliving objects behind walls.
DHS S&T conducted an operational field assessment (OFA) of the DePLife prototype in October 2022. The technology successfully detected people standing, lying down or walking behind a wall. It was also able to determine the number of people present.
DePLife was tested again during another OFA in September 2023, after the developer, MaXentric, incorporated first responders’ feedback into an improved prototype. The enhanced prototype was:
- More shock and weather resistant.
- More compact.
- Easier to use.
- Better at detecting motionless individuals.
DHS S&T’s First Responder Resource Group identified next steps for further development of DePLife, including:
- A hands-free version.
- A mobility requirement to detect life movements through a wall while the device itself is moving.
- The ability to attach the device to a robot for remote deployment and operation.
- The ability to distribute and transmit radar output/feed to multiple users.
- Additional field testing with first responders to increase detection precision and consistency.
DePLife uses radar to penetrate through common interior or exterior walls made of materials like sheetrock, plywood, vinyl/wood siding and stucco. It cannot penetrate through walls that contain sheets of metal or foil as metal reflects the radar’s energy.
The device consists of 2 main pieces of equipment:
- radar, which transmits and receives the radio wave pulses
- user interface device, like a tablet or cell phone, where the results of the radar are displayed.
Why this is important
First responders may need to identify whether individuals are inside a room when direct line-of-sight is not an option. This requires the capability to “see through walls” with the aid of technology. This capability is critical during activities such as building fires when people may be caught without a clear escape route or law enforcement actions such as breaching operations or hostage situations.
Learn more about this technology in the August 2023 OFA report PDF.