Homeland Security got a thing and it’s called radar love

Is there a 20th century sensor more iconic than radar? In massive Doppler domes or forever-circling dishes at airports, radar installations scream massive infrastructure and far-reaching perception. Miniaturizing the technology has moved it from fixed installations to inside planes and even smaller versions in cars. This week, the Department of Homeland Security awarded $200,000 in funding for the final testing phase of radar tiny enough to fit on small drones.

Produced by Echodyne of Bellevue, Washington, the radar system is more specifically a Metamaterials Electronically Scanning Array (MESA). In function, it mimics a phased array radar, concentrating on tracking an object precisely as it moves. In a short, silent video, Echodyne demonstrates a MESA system tracking the flight path of a DJI Phantom 4 drones for over 3,300 feet. The tracking traces a path through three-dimensional space and above the tree line, rendering the flight of the basketball-sized drone intelligible.

“Cost, size, weight and power (C-SWaP) is always a concern when deciding on technology investments,” said Tim Bennett of DHS Science and Technology in a release. “Legacy radar arrays require an expensive, complex and often heavy phase shifter to direct radar beams. Echodyne developed MESA to electronically steer a radar beam with high fidelity and fast directional changes with lower C-SWaP.”

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