An innovative Australian digital radar built with a series of modified rugby goalposts is attracting worldwide attention the ABC reports.
A consortium led by La Trobe University in Melbourne developed the Tiger-3 digital radar, which is 10 times more sensitive than any other research radar. Lead researcher Professor John Devlin said the radar would be used to study space weather, which has an impact on navigation and surveillance systems for shipping and aircraft, as well as for GPS systems. “It measures the ionospheric reflections from a distance out to about 5,000 kilometres,” he said.
Researchers measure the data to study space weather, like recent solar flares, which can potentially knock out power, satellites, navigation and surveillance systems for shipping, aircraft and GPS.
The recent solar flares just grazed the Earth, but Dr Custovic said flares had the potential to knock out transformers, potentially shutting off power for weeks.
Radars were first developed during World War II, but engineer Dr Eddie Custovic said technology had come a long way since then. “The innovation is largely in new software technology that is used to analyse data and signal processing,” he said. La Trobe University Engineering and Space Physics staff have been working on digital radars since the 1990s, and the Tiger-3 took a team three years to build.
Digital radars still work on waves, using frequencies of 8–20 MHz in the High Frequency band, but the electronics and signal processing are now entirely digital, meaning the radar is less susceptible to instrumentation noise. Most radars are still analogue or hybrid, and the digital one offers greater sensitivity, longer range and a much wider field of view, which means researchers are able to detect objects and structures that were not previously visible.