Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University say their prototype device, capable of scanning individuals in a crowd at a distance of up to 75 feet, could improve security at airports, transport centers and major public events.
The scanner utilizes low-power radar signals that reflect off a weapon, while a built-in computer used the reflections to determine the presence of dangerous objects like handguns or knives and alert the detector operator.
Built-in artificial intelligence prevents the detector from issuing an alert if it senses common items such as keys, belt buckles or mobile telephones, the researchers said.
"It's really a combination of a radar system and an AI-based computer system," Manchester researcher Nick Bowring told the BBC. "It would have been unthinkable to make it just five years ago because the computing power and hardware were just not there."
There are no concerns of a danger to humans from the devices radar waves, he said.
"Typically we use a thousandth of the power of a mobile phone," he said.
The prototypes will be turned into commercial versions and will be ready for real-world use in early 2014, the researchers said.