A narrow field electromagnetic sensor system and method of sensing a characteristic of an object provide the capability to realize a characteristic of an object such as density, thickness, or presence, for any desired coordinate position on the object. One application is imaging. The sensor can also be used as an obstruction detector or an electronic trip wire with a narrow field without the disadvantages of impaired performance when exposed to dirt, snow, rain, or sunlight. The sensor employs a transmitter for transmitting a sequence of electromagnetic signals in response to a transmit timing signal, a receiver for sampling only the initial direct RF path of the electromagnetic signal while excluding all other electromagnetic signals in response to a receive timing signal, and a signal processor for processing the sampled direct RF path electromagnetic signal and providing an indication of the characteristic of an object. Usually, the electromagnetic signal is a short RF burst and the obstruction must provide a substantially complete eclipse of the direct RF path. By employing time-of-flight techniques, a timing circuit controls the receiver to sample only the initial direct RF path of the electromagnetic signal while not sampling indirect path electromagnetic signals. The sensor system also incorporates circuitry for ultra-wideband spread spectrum operation that reduces interference to and from other RF services while allowing co-location of multiple electronic sensors without the need for frequency assignments.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract Number W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.