Radar Systems

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Plextek has a long heritage in the development of optimal RF solutions specifically designed to meet the needs of high-performance radar and communication applications.

Whether it is adapting and configuring existing technology for a specific application or designing new applications entirely, our team, paired with our laboratory and testing capabilities, provides our clients with world-leading radar solutions.

A few of the skills we employ

  • End-to End Client Solutions: Bespoke design, development and delivery
  • Technology assessment and identification
  • Advanced Antenna Design: Parabolic, Waveguide, Phased Array Antenna design, UHF, microwave frequencies, mm-wave frequency options
  • Radar Signal Processing: CPU, GPU, Embedded Systems, FPGA
  • Radar Software Analytics: Target Detection, Tracking, Discrimination, Association and Classification.
  • Radar Sensor Fusion: EO/ IR PTZ camera integration (slew to cue)
  • Radar Command & Control (C2): Radar Human Machine Interface (HMI) & Graphical User Interface (GUI)
  • MM-Wave Design and Instrumentation: transmitters, receivers, frequency synthesizer & multipliers, SA frequency extenders, harmonic mixers, VNA extenders
  • Design for testability, design for manufacturing

Steve Greendale

Principal Consultant

“Radars are often perceived as a complicated & expensive solution only suitable for niche applications but things are changing. Radars are becoming more cost effective due to the significant amount of R&D investment in the automotive market. This is opening up opportunities for small size, weight, power and cost (SWAPc) radar sensor solutions capable of being used for commercial, industrial, medical and consumer applications.

We’ve built our business on radar & communications technology, and offer design support throughout the product lifecycle. This includes specifying the most suitable radar technology or designing a bespoke system through to product approvals and manufacturing.”

steve greendate headshot

mm-wave Radar System

Plextek has been working at mm-wave frequencies (above 30 GHz) for some years now. At these extremely high frequencies (EHF), systems often require highly directional antennas that have narrow beamwidths and can be manufactured in a cost-effective manner.

dual head antenna, sample of expertise

In this project, the antenna forms part of a radar system operating at 60 GHz and the design was taken from initial concept through detailed system performance and design calculations to an integrated, highly manufacturable, single-board radar sensor in just a few months.

The novel antenna for the mm-wave radar incorporates Substrate Integrated Waveguide (SIW) technology within a multi-layer, low-loss, microwave laminate. This method involves using the PCB itself to create an enclosed transmission line that can be implemented on the same microwave laminate as the radar transceiver circuitry, thereby yielding a compact design that makes best use of the PCB area.

Micro Radar Sensor

Flooded City Street sensor

Our major strength is the ability to bring together specialist expertise across many disciplines to engineer something very special. Plextek’s current micro-radar project is an excellent example of this. The project was funded through Autonomous Systems Underpinning Research (ASUR), with the aim of investigating how radar might be applied to the problem of collision avoidance in small-sized UAVs. In just a few months, our engineers have taken the initial concept through detailed system performance and design calculations, to an integrated, highly manufacturable single-board radar sensor head, suitable for use in airborne trials.

Given the application, it was apparent from the outset that size, weight and power would all need to be ruthlessly minimised. In order to facilitate navigation through closely spaced obstacles, the sensor must achieve high angular resolution – to only a few degrees. To achieve this from an antenna only centimetres across dictated the use of millimetre-wave frequencies. Initial systems engineering calculations concentrated on selecting a waveform that would maximise the detection performance achievable with only milliwatts of transmitted power, aiming for compatibility with an emerging generation of highly integrated commercial millimetre-wave ICs.

Having identified candidate active devices, the next problem to solve was that of the antenna. Although radar antenna gain requirements may be similar to those of demanding communications applications, radar applications typically also mandate that very narrow beamwidths and ultra-low sidelobe levels are achieved across very wide bandwidths. In this particular case, size and weight must also be kept to a minimum. Plextek’s antenna engineers evolved a novel printed design, which was verified and refined using advanced EM simulation software tools.

Through the creative use of state-of-the-art PCB design and manufacturing techniques, it proved possible to integrate the transceiver circuitry and antenna onto the same PCB, not only minimising size and weight, but also eliminating the need for bulky waveguide or lossy coaxial cable interconnects. 3D printing was employed to realise supporting mechanical components. Throughout the design process, input from Plextek’s manufacturing engineers ensured that this advanced design would be readily manufacturable.

Plextek’s signal processing expertise was brought to bear in providing real-time display of the sensor output, along with raw data logging to facilitate refinement of detection algorithms off-line. Code has been designed to be compatible with a variety of platforms, with a view to enabling the efficient use of pre-existing processing resource, if required.

Trials of the complete radar have demonstrated the ability to detect relevant obstacles at up to 100 metres with an update rate of several Hertz, in a lightweight low-SWaP package. The successful outcome of the micro radar development highlights the benefits of bringing together systems design, millimetre-wave engineering, antenna design and EM simulation, mechanical design and digital signal processing skills in the realisation of a uniquely capable low-SWaP sensor. Future work will concentrate on further development of algorithms for UAV collision avoidance as well as for ground vehicle and static applications, and also the analysis of target micro-Doppler.

Demonstrations have strayed beyond the originally intended application, with one particular favourite being a real-time, high update rate display of a game of catch with a golf ball!

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