Vlog: Micro Radar for Unmanned Aerial Systems

pete doig headshot

By: Peter Doig
Business Manager, Defence

21st May 2018

For a number of years now, we’ve been researching the uses of high-frequency mm-wave micro-radar for a number of different applications.

In 2017, we were awarded funding in DSTL’s newly formed Defence and Security Accelerator competition, in which we were able to develop our micro radar system further to enable an Unmanned Air System (UAS) to autonomously provide resupply of equipment from up to 30 km away.

Peter discusses how the technology has developed over the years, our progress within the program and the capability the technology brings.


So Plextek have been researching and developing millimetre-wave 60 gigahertz micro-radar technology for the past four years predominantly working with DSTL, starting under their autonomous systems underpinning research program where we developed a radar testbed to prove the utility of the radar to enable small drones to operate in complex urban environments.

This enabled Plextek to then design and build a low-cost compact micro-radar prototype which could be included within the autonomous last-mile resupply program. So under DSTL’s autonomous last mile resupply program, a defence and security accelerator competition, we wanted to assess the performance of the micro-radar mounted on a drone so we undertook a number of trials to measure the performance of the radar against a range of terrain types and objects, including trees, hedges, powerlines and buildings and vehicles.

We successfully demonstrated the ability of the radar to detect powerlines out to 60 metres and vehicles out to 300 metres.

Moving forward, we are keen to work with partners either who are providing a UAV or an unmanned ground vehicle to optimise the radar and its various parameters for the chosen platform and then advance the radar processing to successfully demonstrate the various concept of operations that are required, for example the autonomous sense and avoid, or possibly the need and desire for accurate landing capability where we would look to link the radar with a passive radar retroreflector which could act as a beacon for the solider with regards to his resupply requirement.

However, ultimately there are lots of exciting exploitation opportunities for the radar into different defence requirements and we’re really excited about listening to those requirements from people and working with them to meet it.