Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is building South Africa’s first own-developed gunshot detection system.

Reports have it that the gunshot detection system would help security agencies to provide quick and accurate confirmation of shooting incidents to law enforcement agencies.

Speaking on the new invention, CSIR Materials Science and Manufacturing (MSM) sensor science and technology electronic engineer, Elna Niemann said the system would detect an impulse noise, and then determine whether it was a gunshot, a vehicle accident or a window breaking, for example.

The gunshot detection system will also analyze and identify the sound, determining range, caliber and direction – for example, a 38 fired 50m away at a specific set of GPS coordinates.

The system would also sift through noise clutter such as traffic. Rain and wind tend to have a negative effect on it.

The CSIR’s gunshot detection prototype is currently still quite bulky. It is vehicle mounted, and around 1.5 m by 1.4 m in size.

But, ultrasonics and sonar research group leader Nic Nicolaides said it is in the process of breaking down it complexities in order to make it more user-friendly and commercially viable.

“We would like to move down to 0.5 m by 0.5 m,” he said citing the CSIR saying it would like to see the system powered by solar panels.

Nicolaides further explained that the system’s functionality can also be improved by fitting it to traffic or street lights.

It is possible to use the detection system to determine the direction of a mortar attack, or a rhino poaching event.

“Sniper attacks are, for example, one of the problems the South African army has to deal with during its many peacekeeping missions,” says Nicolaides.

This new technological build would help  law enforcement agencies make more informed decisions and also help prevent  loss of life by providing advanced warning on the firepower at any crime scene.

The system consists of a microphone array, controller and user interface and Nicolaides said while these are all off-the-shelf items, what makes each system unique is “its algorithm – or the brain behind the system.”

“This intellectual property behind the system is the most costly element,” he added as he noted that his team aims at building a smaller-sized gunshot detection system by the end of March next year.

“Then we would like to commercialise the technology or sell the licence for commercialisation purposes,” he said.

Meanwhile, the state- owned power utility, Eskom has expressed interest in the gunshot detection  system owing to the specific noise made by faulty power lines.