New techniques applied to air-traffic control radars
June 1, 1974
During the past two years a program has been carried out to show how new techniques can greatly improve the performance of radars used for air-traffic control. A survey of problems associated with presently used radars was undertaken. This survey indicates that primary radar in an automated air-traffic control system can be made significantly more effective by the use of new techniques. The radar's handling of extraneous reflections (clutter) is critical to its performance. Three types of interfering clutter were found to predominate: ground clutter, weather clutter, and angels. Angels are generally accepted to be radar returns from flocks of birds. In addition, second-time-around clutter is often troublesome. For each type of clutter, all known remedies for improving the signal-to-clutter ratio were studied and radar systems were configured using appropriate sets of remedies. Some specific solutions incorporated in the resulting radar systems are: a) the use of linear large dynamic range, near-optimum digital signal processors to filter signals from clutter, b) the use of electronically step-scanned antennas to improve the correlation of aircraft and clutter returns from pulse to pulse, c) the use of multiple PRF's instead of staggered PRF's together with coherent transmitters to keep second-time-around clutter returns well correlated while still overcoming blind speeds, d) the use of a fine grained ground clutter map to give superclutter visibility on tangential targets, and e) the use of lower operating frequencies to greatly reduce weather and angel returns. Two demonstration radar systems have been implemented, an S-band radar using a mechanically rotating antenna and a UHF radar using an electronically step-scanned cylindrical antenna. Experimental results are described.