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The Warsaw Voice » Other » July 9, 2008
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Laser Speed Gun vs. Radar
July 9, 2008   
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Researchers at the Military University of Technology (WAT) in Warsaw have designed an innovative laser speed gun to help the police catch motorists driving too fast. The device won a gold medal at the 56th Brussels Eureka World Exhibition of Innovation, Research and New Technology.

The award-winning laser speed gun has been developed by the university's Institute of Optoelectronics. "Compared with standard radar devices, our laser speed gun ensures greater accuracy in measuring speed and it also unmistakably singles out vehicles that exceed speed limits," says Prof. Zygmunt Mierczyk, who heads the research team.

A normal radar set sends out a radio pulse and waits for the reflection. Then it measures the Doppler shift in the signal and uses the shift to determine the speed. Laser speed guns use a more direct method that relies on the reflection time of light rather than Doppler shift. A laser speed gun measures the round-trip time for light to reach a car and reflect back. A laser speed gun shoots a short burst of infrared laser light and then waits for it to reflect off the vehicle. The gun counts the number of nanoseconds it takes for the round trip, and by dividing by two it can calculate the distance to the car. If the gun takes 1,000 samples per second, it can compare the change in distance between samples and calculate the speed of the car. By taking several hundred samples over the course of a third of a second or so, the accuracy can be very high.

Standard radar sets rely on the reflection of electromagnetic microwaves. The main drawback of this method is that the beam of radiation is broad, which means that several vehicles may be caught within the beam at the same time. The divergence of laser beams is 40 times smaller than that of radar beams.

A laser speed gun consists of a laser that works as a transmission system, and a sensor, or a receiving system that detects radiation reflected from the vehicle. "Our device emits a series of pulses that travel at light speed and precisely target a specific vehicle," says Mierczyk.

The vehicle's speed is measured by calculating time and path differences. The measurement time is 0.3 seconds and its accuracy is around 1 kilometer per hour. The speeds the device can measure range from 0 to 250 kilometers per hour. The distance from the device to the vehicle can be up to 600 meters.

The device has been developed to help Poland's only producer of radar speed guns, Zakłady Urz±dzeń Radiolokacyjnych Zurad in Ostrów Mazowiecka in the central province of Mazovia, enter Western European markets. The company could not expand abroad because its product line did not include laser speed guns. Nowadays increasingly accurate and reliable speed guns are needed because their readouts are used as evidence in court. "Readouts from our speed gun cannot be challenged. The device measures the speed of a specific vehicle and there is no way it can mistakenly measure the speed of another vehicle at the same time," Mierczyk says. The device is also resistant to interference from radar and radio stations. For the time being, the laser speed gun is a prototype device. Its production will probably be launched in the fall.

The laser speed gun project was funded by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. The research team consisted of Col. Prof. Zygmunt Mierczyk; Lt. Col. Marek Zygmunt, DSc, Eng.; Andrzej Gawlikowski, MSc, Eng.; Lt. Col. Andrzej Gietka, MSc, Eng.; Maj. Piotr Knysak, MSc, Eng.; Andrzej Młodzianko, MSc, Eng.; Michał Muzal, MSc, Eng.; and Lt. Col. Wiesław Piotrowski, DSc Eng.

Mierczyk's team is now working on an integrated optoelectronic fire system that would respond within a fraction of a second to a fire inside a building by extinguishing the flames.

Bogusława Szumiec-Presch
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