Passive millimeter-wave (PMMW) imaging is a method of forming images through the passive detection of naturally occurring millimeter-wave radiation from a scene. Although such imaging has been performed for decades (or more, if one includes microwave radiometric imaging), new sensor technology in the millimeter-wave regime has enabled the generation of PMMW imaging at video rates and has renewed interest in this area.
Description of Passive Millimeter-Wave
This interest is, in part, driven by the ability to form images during the day or night; in clear weather or in low-visibility conditions, such as haze, fog, clouds, smoke, or sandstorms; and even through clothing. This ability to see under conditions of low visibility that would ordinarily blind visible or infrared (IR) sensors has the potential to transform the way low-visibility conditions are dealt with.
For the military, low visibility can become an asset rather than a liability. In the commercial realm, fog-bound airports could be eliminated as a cause for flight delays or diversions. For security concerns, imaging of concealed weapons could be accomplished in a nonintrusive manner with PMMW imaging. Like IR and visible sensors, a camera based on PMMW sensors generates easily interpretable imagery in a fully covert manner; no discernible radiation is emitted, unlike radar and lidar.
However, like radar PMMW sensors provide penetrability through a variety of low-visibility conditions (moderate/heavy rainfall is an exception). In addition, the underlying phenomenology that governs the formation of PMMW images leads to two important features. First, the signature of metallic objects is very different from natural and other backgrounds. Second, the clutter variability is much less in PMMW images than in other sensor images.