Radar stands for Radio Detection and Ranging System. Simply put, a radar is essentially an electromagnetic system used to detect the location and distance of an object from the point where a radar is placed. It achieves this by radiating energy into space and monitoring the echo or reflected signal from the object. Aircraft radar operates within the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) and microwave ranges.
The basic operation of a radar system is carried out by a transmitter, receiver, and an antenna. The transmitter produces an electromagnetic signal which is in turn sent into space by the antenna. When the signal comes into contact with an object, it is redirected in many directions. This reflected signal travels back to the radar antenna which delivers it to the receiver where it is analyzed to determine the location of the object. The location of an object is determined by calculating how long it takes for the signal to travel from the radar to the target and back. This is known as pulsed radar.
While these three parts are the driving components of a radar, a radar system has six major parts. In addition to the transmitter, receiver, and antenna, antenna doppler radar systems use waveguides, duplexers, and thresholds. The waveguides are the transmission lines through which the radar signals travel, and the duplexer is a component that allows an antenna to operate as both a transmitter and a receiver. Many of these are gaseous devices that produce a short circuit at the input to the receiver when the transmitter is in operation. The threshold is compared with the output of the receiver to determine the presence of any object. If the output is below a given threshold, it is assumed there is a presence of soundwaves.
The two types of radar are pulse doppler radar and moving target indicator (MTI) radar. Pulse doppler radar is a system that determines the range to a target through pulse-timing techniques and uses the doppler effect to determine the target object’s velocity. MTI radar is used to differentiate a target within a group of targets. For example, MTI radar is used to locate aircraft among stationary objects such as large hills and trees.
Radar has a myriad of uses, but is widely used in military, air traffic control, remote sensing, ground traffic control, and space applications. In the military, radar has three main uses: air defense, missile systems, and enemy identification. In air defense, radar is used for target detection, target recognition, and weapon control. In missile systems, radar is used to guide the weapon. For enemy identification, radar is used to survey areas and detect objects. In air traffic control, radar monitors air traffic and detects aircraft positions, guides aircraft to land in poor-visibility conditions, and scans the airport surface to locate aircraft and ground vehicles.
In remote sensing applications, radar can be used to observe weather patterns, observe planetary positions, and monitor icy seas to ensure travelling ships have a smooth route. Radar is used in ground traffic control applications where it can determine the speed of vehicles, and even warn drivers of cars and other obstacles around them. Lastly, radar has four applications in space technology. It guides spacecraft for safe landings, observes planetary systems, detects and tracks satellites, and monitors meteors.
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