Detecting Sniper Scopes

GizMag reports on JETprotect CS300K “Long Range Counter Surveillance Camera” …

Now a new device which uses the same “red-eye” effect of flash cameras and projects it hundreds of meters, can identify binoculars, sniper scopes, cameras and even human eyeballs that are staring at you. It is hence the first machine that can offer 24/7 warning that you are being watched or targeted, BEFORE a shot is fired.

The system uses a Class IIIb laser illuminator to paint the target and a camera to watch for reflections. Software must be used to detect the difference of the reflection from a wall verses the reflection from optics. I suspect this device is designed for use in non-urban areas. In a urban area it would be hard to detect the difference between a scope or a car window.

[ Many thanks to Tarkan for emailing me the link. ]

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Andrew

    If you think the US Military doesn’t have the technology to characterize and recognize the difference between a car window and glass in an optic, you are kidding yourself. It even says in the article it can “identify” eyes. If it can “identify” something, then it logically follows that it can identify when something “isn’t”.

    • Andrew, it is a private company. Not military.

  • Don

    Laser wavelengths in the SWIR band reflect from the eye with little energy absorption. This is actually a desirable property for this kind of device since they are most likely depending on a strong reflection to do the detection. Also, Geneva conventions ban weapons which intentionally blind soldiers on the battlefield which means that you can’t use a laser which penetrates the cornea.

    This device most likely can not determine the difference between glass materials because that would require a very sensitive hyperspectral imager and I don’t know of any which would fit in the form factor of this device which would be sensitive enough to get the required spectral resolution which would make different types of glass unique.

    In this context identify most likely means “detect the presence of”. “classify” would be the usual technical term for being able to recognize different types of reflectors.

    My guess on how it works:

    -Short duration pulsed laser in the vicinity of 1.57 um shoots through a beam spreader and comes out of the circular window.

    -Spread-out laser energy illuminates the scene, eyes, scopes, etc act as reflectors at the selected wavelength.

    -Digital camera using InGaAs detectors (SWIR band) takes a picture from behind the square window.

    -Simple binary thresholding of the SWIR image, morphological operator used to clean up small reflections, create blobs, detect centroids of blobs.

    -Map centroids to angles in camera coordinates which point the direction of the reflection. You have your man.

    Potential Detects:
    Use your own SWIR camera, trigger it on incoming photon flux. The bright spot is where the camera is.

    Counter Detect Technique (I really hope it does this already):
    Use very short duration laser bursts in a random sequence over some time interval, integrate incoming photons at your detector only in the time instances when you knew you were pulsing. Enemy detector integrates over whole interval, energy sums to zero, no detect.

    Quite a few


    • Don, thanks for the info!

  • Mike Gray

    Distinguishing between a car window might not be as challenging as it sounds. The simple fact of surface area alone is enough to eliminate a windshield from consideration. With optics, you’re talking about a couple inches in diameter versus feet for car or building windows. Obviously, there might be ways to fool the system (for instance, maybe a sniper behind a window, or a spot where only a tiny bit of window is visible), but I wouldn’t be surprised if many forms of urban glass could be distinguished from optics.

  • Freiheit

    ” In a urban area it would be hard to detect the difference between a scope or a car window.”

    I disagree. A car window is much larger and will have a different reflectivity than a scope. Light will shine through a car window and not bounce back whereas a scope should get the “red eye” effect from the eye at the other end of it.

  • Matt Groom

    This is scary-cool sci-fi reality stuff. Now they can combine the acoustic sniper detection capabilities with this visible scope detection system and ground level radar, ala counter battery radar, and pin point a sniper’s location within a matter of feet, or even inches! Not good news for snipers. With this kind of technology, Sniping is going to become more and more like suicide bombing, because all you get is one shot, and after that, you’re toast.

    To get around these technologies, you’d have to use a suppressed rifle, firing sub-sonic ammo, with open sights (unless you were surrounded by highly reflective objects). Even then, high attuned acoustic devices might be able to detect a logical path of travel for subsonic projectiles based on noise generated by airflow around the projectile. Scary stuff!

  • Carl

    I find it somewhat creepy that it supposedly can detect human eyes.

  • Jodie

    I wonder if a kill flash, or similar device would defeat this tech. I guess enemy snipers or recon units could put out a bunch of decoy lens/glass discs to cause false alerts…

  • William

    I think it might work fairly well in urban environments. I’m assuming it needs the reflective surface to have a portion of it that would reflect light right back at the device. Since it is fairly difficult for the relatively flat windows of cars and buildings to be perfectly oriented to see your reflection, but fairly easy for the curved surface of an eyeball or objective lens that is looking at you to reflect back, I bet it would work. If it was mounted on a vehicle it would probably get frequent, breif false positives as it passed by other vehicles, store windows, etc., but these could probably be programmed out.

  • me

    So im thinking a honeycomb type diffusion filter on the front of the optic might negate this?

  • Lance

    Way too bulky for practical perposes.

  • Don

    Kill flash most likely won’t work because they probably use very short pulse durations non-uniformly distributed in time and then integrate over the hot spots. the bad guy doesn’t know where the hot spots are so he integrates over the whole interval and averages your short pulses with a bunch of zeros and slips below the noise floor. There are other more complex ways to defeat a kill flash as well. If they didn’t anticipate that then their engineers need to get fresh air more often, but i’m sure they’ve got something built in there.

    The problem with differentiating between a car window and a scope by size twofold, first without knowing the range to the object it is impossible to infer it’s size in the world from it’s size on the focal plane array. (similarly this is why a periscope operator can infer the range to a target only after guessing the mast-head height of the target). second, is that different strength reflections from different materials typically cause a blooming effect on the focal plane array. This causes an ambiguity between size and reflectivity. It seems counter-intuitive but this is not to say there aren’t some other ways of mitigating the problem without having to first identify the object…

    Also, car windows as William states aren’t the biggest of problems in urban environments using eye-safe laser wavelengths, is is the darned reflectors… they are designed to reflect in all directions and work too well under eye safe laser illumination. (bane of my existence).

    The issue of differentiating between auto-glass and scope glass by spectral signature (essentially by using the returning light to infer the actual material type) is that the laser probably doesn’t have enough bandwidth to illuminate unique signature and the detector is probably monochrome in the operating band rather than multi- or hyper-spectral (lots of bands, like RGB color except instead of 3 wide bands several narrow bands)

    Either way this is a pretty cool technology, but the practicality will be limited by whether or not anyone figures out the handful of ways it can be defeated and whether or not the counter-defeat technique is economically viable.


  • Maigo

    I think you have the wrong idea, it’s not an infantry system. It’d be set up at bases, control points/road blocks and what not

  • Lance

    Still if its smaller the better.

  • Julio

    It reminds me of the Mirage system from Torrey Pines Logic:
    but perhaps some of you guys who know about this stuff can tell me the difference!

  • subase

    Useless in public urban environments with the availability of telephoto lenses. Whats the difference between a scope on a rifle and one on a camera? And these days anyone of any importance whatsoever is worth taking photos of and uploading online.

    I’d say it would be better as a tool to combat hidden cameras conducting surveillance.

    A sniper only needs 10’s of seconds to take his shot with very lethal long range bullets. It’s not that difficult, I don’t think anyone will ever be protected against a snipers bullet. Escape wouldn’t be too hard either especially in an urban environment.

    In the bush though it would be invaluable, but something tells me a simple coating on a lens could mask its reflective signature

  • It’s an unnecessary and likely quite ineffective gimmick.

    Snipers already have their (at times very simple) tools to minimize the risk of normal compromising optics reflection flashes. These countermeasures mostly limit the angle in which light from the lens can go back. In other words; such a high tech tool would be useless against a ‘1916 camouflage techniques sniper scope unless it’s aimed almost directly at the sensor.

    I’m also skeptical about the eye detection option because modern armies equip their troops with coloured goggles that provide protection against lasers. These goggles would most likely mess up the sensor’s performance.

    A cheap photo sensor scanning for the exact colour of such goggles might be more effective.

    Finally, there are animals in the world, too. You don’t want a false alarm for every sighted rabbit.

  • Brian

    Ummm, correct me if I’m wrong, but the glass in most optics (of any notable quality) are not made of the same material as windshields (glass covering a broad spectrum of materials).

    Furthermore, most elements (of which there are many in a single scope) are each individually coated.

    130 types of glass from this company alone:

  • Aziz

    Old skool Iron sights for the win!

  • NKT

    Brian, that doesn’t help your argument at all – that one company makes 130 types of glass means that the detector would have to try and work out if it is one of the 128 types not used for the front lens of a scope, or one of the 2 that are used for the front lens of a scope, and the reflector on the back of a Dodge. Needle in a haystack!

    As said above, this device is NOT going to be used (hopefully) to instantly return fire. You US military folks have already shot up enough camera carrying people, and that was from a visual ID from a gunship. The idiot who though it was an AK would have had to say it was a Dragunov (‘scoped), but the shooting of a few kids and a load of civilians probably would have happened all the same.

    This device will be hilariously easy to “false” too – a windchime made from the right size glass, specs, retroreflectors, binos, cameras…. it will be a nightmare, I think, for anywhere bar a very rural setting.

    More and more tech is not the answer, at least not without people taking care behind it. Hearts and minds, people, that’s what wins wars.

  • Anthony

    I do security for a large well known movie studio and we use this technology for anti-piracy measures during movie screenings. We show high profile movies months in advance of release for publicity, client feedback, etc. so anti-piracy is a huge priority as we do not want these movies being distributed illegally and or prematurely. Officers assigned to the screenings are trained to use this equipment to find and identify video piracy activities. We have one of these devices on each side of the movie screen scanning the audience for any type of video recording devices. If the machine detects any lenses it takes a picture and our officers identify wether it is a camera and deal with the person individually after the show.

    This technology has revolutionized the way we do business in the anti-piracy field in studio security as in the past we had to use officers with night vision scopes constantly scanning the audience for cameras.

    Just thought you all would like to know how this technology can be used in non military applications