A portable primary radar for general aviation

Jerom Maas*, Ronald van Gent, Jacco Hoekstra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
87 Downloads (Pure)


A detailed situation awareness of the local environment is essential for safe flight in General Aviation. When operating under Visual Flight Rules, eyesight is crucial for maintaining situation awareness and objects may be overlooked. Technical solutions such as Flarm have been sought, but they only work on a basis of co-operation: obstacles without the proper equipment are invisible. Recent developments in the field of radar technology, partly empowered by the demand for sensors for autonomous cars, have improved the size and power consumption of available hardware. Today, the hardware exists to build a portable primary radar system for situation awareness. In this paper the results are presented of efforts to build the first portable primary radar for general, which has to be lightweight, cheap and have a low power consumption. The focus in this paper is on the software design of such a radar system. The physical principles of radar sensing are described, as well as the scientific steps needed to provide situation awareness. The hardware and software for the radar are both built and tested, and the results of these tests are presented. A flight experiment is performed with a small aircraft flying past a stationary radar on a small hill. It is found that the radar is capable of detecting the aircraft up to a distance of at least 3 kilometers. 3D localization is performed and the location determined by the radar was on average 46 meters away from the aircraft position as measured by satellite navigation, relative to a total distance of about 1000 meters from the radar. A low-pass filter can be applied on the raw results in order to improve the location estimation further. Future research will focus on bringing the portable radar in motion while operating.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0239892
Number of pages32
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10 October
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


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