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It is widely believed that drone delivery services and flying fleets of taxis will soon be part of reality. But first, new flight rules, regulations and standards are required, and air-traffic authorities must build the infrastructure for a crowded, low-level airspace that’s safe for those in the skies and on the ground, especially in urban settings.
A new low-power radar is offered by Raytheon. Instead of one, massive radar installation, it consists of smaller, one-meter square Active Electronically Scanned Array, or AESA, software-defined radar units. A network of such small radar units could cover and control the low-altitude flights of smaller craft.
The system could aid drone delivery services, flying cars, and give you highly localized information like ground fog or flash-flooding in remote or urban locations; things that today’s radars can’t do, according to the company announcement on its website.
In a live flight-check demonstration for U.S. government agencies, Raytheon showcased how its low-power radar can support flights within 20 nautical miles. Air traffic controllers used the radar, which uses beam-scanning technology, to guide the pilot to touchdown with surgical precision.
Raytheon is working with small business and academia on a vision: a distributed LPR network that will create a merged, complete picture for multiple missions. Besides supporting safe landings, the network could support aviation surveillance, precision weather observations (including 3-D wind information and urban hydrology), small drone detection and tracking, border security and surveillance, wildfire detection, etc.
Using LPR, Raytheon could offer radar data as a service, offering data to pilots, companies, the government, weather forecasters and others with a need for low-level radar information.