New DARPA radar sensor captures video through clouds

The sensor can be fitted into a standard EO/IR sensor gimbal on aircraft and can capture real-time video through clouds.
By Richard Tomkins  |  Sept. 29, 2017 at 12:41 PM
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Sept. 29 (UPI) -- A new radar sensor that can capture real-time video through clouds has been developed and demonstrated by the U.S. military.

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, said the sensor is part of its Video Synthetic Aperture Radar, or ViSAR, program that recently completed flight testing.

"The recent flight tests of the ViSAR sensor marked a major program milestone toward our goal, proving that we can take uninterrupted live video of targets on the ground even when flying through or above clouds," Bruce Wallace, program manager in DARPA's Strategic Technology Office, said in a news release. "The EO/IR sensors on board the test aircraft went blank whenever clouds obscured the view, but the synthetic aperture radar tracked ground objects continuously throughout the flight."

DARPA's ViSAR program started in 2013 to develop an extremely high frequency sensor for targeting that can operate through clouds as effectively as current electro-optical and infrared, or EO/IR, sensors operate in clear weather.

Cloud-penetrating radar exists in a number of formats but there has not been a synthetic aperture sensor that fits in a standard EO/IR sensor gimbal on aircraft and maintains frame rates fast enough to track maneuvering targets on the ground.

"Refining the ViSAR sensor's visualization software to provide operators a representation they're used to seeing is the next step in the program," said Wallace. "We don't want operators in the back of an aircraft to need special radar training to interpret the sensor's data -- we are working to make the visual interface as easy to interpret as existing EO/IR sensor displays."

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