Hey everyone I am working on a project that is a lot harder than what I thought. It is a project for school. How can I detect a gunshot indoors without using an array of microphones? I had something going well with using microphones, but I would be breaking patents which I cannot do for this project.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ What's wrong with a single microphone? Unless you've got other bloody loud noises, a single microphone, AGC, and peak detector ought to do it. Also, if you're not selling a design, there's no issue (as far as I know) using concepts from existing patents. \$\endgroup\$ – uint128_t May 9 '16 at 3:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ For a sufficiently loud noise, a diaphragm and an electrical contact would suffice. I suspect from the wording of the question that he wants to detect more than its occurrence...like where it came from... \$\endgroup\$ – gbarry May 9 '16 at 3:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you can get close enough to the gun, I guess you could use a light detector \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel May 9 '16 at 3:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ You will be hard pressed to find a novel idea in this application. However if you are not going to use multiple microphones, then I would suggest you study how to use echos. \$\endgroup\$ – st2000 May 9 '16 at 3:41
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ You need to improve this question. What do you mean 'detect'. Identify from background? Locate? Calculate trajectory? You should do a patent search and just use one that's expired-- much more likely to succeed than you inventing a novel approach. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel May 9 '16 at 6:23

One point to note : patents stop you selling what you build (if it infringes on them). But they don't stop you building one to test.

That's deliberate, because they are as much about communicating the patented technique as they are about protecting the inventor - to encourage the spread and growth of good ideas for public benefit.

In theory.

In practice, the "communication" aspect is encrypted in legal jargon and is usually written to satisfy the letter of the "communication" aspect without actually communicating anything. If an inventor can get the protection of a patent without breaking the trade secret behind it, he has a good patent attorney drafting the claims...

Nevertheless. you have the right to build any patented invention to test that the published idea works, as well as to improve on it if possible. You just can't sell (or hire or lease or give away or benefit from) the product without some agreement with the inventor, unless you are prepared to challenge the validity of the patent in court (not recommended!)

So legally I think you can use a patented technique for a school project (though I Am Not A Lawyer) - with proper attribution of course - as long as you are gaining no material benefit from it.

The school may consider winning a competition or passing a course is a "material benefit", or they may impose their own rules for the sake of the competition - it may be worth asking your tutor or adviser.


A microphone is the easiest way to detect shots (well, plus some processing and communication).

Gun shots are loud. Really loud. As in, 140dB to 180dB. For comparison, a jet engine is 140dB. They also have very distinct characteristics, such as a very short, sharp rise in audio level.

You will need to collect actual data on how different guns sound indoors. When you do, please wear good hearing protection. I usually recommend wearing ear plugs under muffs when shooting indoors. Movies simply do no convey just how loud firearms really are.

With that said, you explicitly stated you can't use microphones (although you probably can, but I do understand how school projects can be).

You might want to look into creating a "burning gun powder detector". Kind of like a smoke detector, except much more sensitive and only alerts on certain chemical compounds. I'm not sure what all is out there as far as "smoke classification sensors" (maybe a spectrometer?), and you'll probably have to borrow a chemist or two to get a good profile on burning gunpowder.

Other than a big bang and smoke, firearms really don't produce anything else.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "firearms really don't produce anything else"? - AFAIK, they produce a flash of light and a projectile and a hole on impact too. \$\endgroup\$ – JimmyB May 9 '16 at 14:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JimmyB Valid points. Flashes can be reduced or eliminated with certain muzzle attachments, like suppressors. And with the right suppressor with the right firearm with the right ammunition, one might be able to reduce the report to under 100dB. However, attempting to detect the muzzle flash or the impact hole are probably unworkable for a gunshot detector. \$\endgroup\$ – CHendrix May 9 '16 at 15:49

I am aware this sounds verry silly, but if you are not allowed to use microphones you could try to build something as simple as a breadboard with a couple of wires attached to some LDRs (Light depending resistors) hook those op to a serial monitor (you could use Arduino for this if you are familliar) and you can monitor diffrences in light... Ofcourse a microphone would be way more accurate. But the flash of a gunshot should trip a ldr. Again, this could be complete nonsense.

  • \$\begingroup\$ LDRs are much too slow in their responses. A photodiode is more like it, or maybe even a photovoltaic cell. \$\endgroup\$ – JimmyB May 9 '16 at 15:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.