DRONES, LASERS = I.E.D. SPOTTERS

There were a couple of anti-IED technologies I didn't get to mention in my recent Wired News piece. One of 'em comes from Navy-funded engineers at Advanced Ceramics Research in Tuscon, Arizona. They're outfitting their Silver Fox unmanned plane with a radio frequency emitter. The signal returns when the wave encounters a detonation wire. And that tips troops off to the fact that an handmade bomb might be nearby.st_helens8.jpgDayton, Ohio's Spectra Research is also getting some Navy money to spot the jury-rigged weapons. But the company has a whole different approach to doing it. By using a series of laser flashes over a wide array of the infrared, thermal, and visual wavelengths, the company's technology can -- hopefully -- spot suspicious shapes as they appear on the road.Similar sensors are often fooled by weather or light conditions. Spectra's is different, promises company president Gordon Little. But by using so many different bands of light, Little thinks his project could lead to "greatly reduced false alarms."But there's a big shortcoming in the technology, Little admits. If an IED is buried in the ground -- and they often are -- Spectra's sensor would be pretty much useless. "Buried objects would not beparticularly accessible to us," he sighs.

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