The U.K.'s defense body is offering £650,000 ($1 million) in an effort to crowdsource technologies that will boost the state's surveillance capabilities.
The Ministry of Defence's Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) has launched a competition calling for "novel" and "covert" techniques to see inside buildings and underground facilities from at least 100 meters away.
"The ability to remotely gather information about the inside of buildings is critical to defeat increasingly sophisticated adversaries," a CDE background document said.
These capabilities would help discover secret manufacturing operations, illegal storage activities, and work out the number and movement of people inside, the document explained.
The ministry is putting up the prize money to help fund the competition's first phase, and hopes to attract "one-man bands" who haven't worked with in the defense industry before, Vicky Torraca, a spokesperson for the U.K.'s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory told CNBC.
She added that successful submissions will receive between £40,000 to £100,00 each.
Working outside of the industry will not only cut costs, but will potentially yield practical solutions to military problems, IHS Defense and Aviation Analyst Ben Moores said.
"The solution will probably be found through the application of commercial, off-the-shelf tech," Moores told CNBC.
"You don't need top science," he said. "You need people who can look at the problem from different angles, and not necessarily from traditional military background."
Projects developed through the CDE's competition will most likely address the challenges of urban warfare, Moores explained.
"You can't just blow your way through a city — it's going to kill lots of people." Even if infantry go through, room by room, most armies can't afford the casualties.
It's possible that the best submissions will apply some robotic technology, he said. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or small, flying, insect-like cameras are one possibility. Sensors that attach on the outside of buildings and determine the interior of a building through complex mathematical algorithms may present an alternative solution, Moores added.
While concerns were recently raised over domestic spying efforts, such as those made public through Edward Snowden's NSA leaks, Moores said the techniques derived from the CDE competition won't be of much help to national surveillance programs.
The ministry already has the ability to establish who might be in a particular building, and can already spy on communications, Moores said. Instead, this technology is targeting houses that armies know nothing about.
Submissions close September 10.