This post is also available in: heעברית (Hebrew)

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.