h a l f b a k e r y
Baker Street Irregulars
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It is possible, by shining a light on a surface and watching the return, to see how noisy it is. (if it's a hard surface you can listen, but this idea doesn't need that level of fidelity)
This laser system would shine an array of lasers onto the ground and detect vibrations. A computer would filter
out universal ones and parse the vibrations to draw vectors to the origins and detect what some of those origins are. Short-term vibrations, such as from an explosion, could be filtered out or recognized by recognizing their short-termidness. Universal vibrations (such as from the wind) could be filtered out by recognizing their universality. A great deal of calculus would then process the remaining ones. It's unlikely to be sensitive enough to detect a foot-fall, but an artillery or machine gun emplacement repeatedly firing would easily be detectable, as would a moving tank or truck. Until now this hasn't been possible simply due to the noise of battle involving so many wave-forms. But modern GPUs are up to the task.
edit: Not necessarily aircraft-borne.
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||This doesn't look like it will be very squaddie-proof ....
||Besides, simple acoustic transducers will do exactly the same thing without recourse to lasers.
||But the problem is the noise floor; so much random, local noise that more distant sources can't be discriminated. A little research on the problems of seismometry will disclose most of the issues.
||Why? What size is your mom? %-)
||Even if you could get this to work, it could be easily
defeated by some pretty simple random vibration
shaker tables, off-balance engines, etc.