UAF Inventors Bill Bristow and Tim Theurer have developed a method to improve the resolution of radar systems by as much as a factor of 10.
The inventors came up with the improvement while working on the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network, known as SuperDARN. SuperDarn is a collection of high-frequency (HF) phased array radars used primarily to measure space weather. SuperDARN maps the flow of charged particles in the upper atmosphere, but the radar also observes targets such as planes that are thousands of kilometers away from the radar and beyond the visible horizon.
The radar system is able to observe vehicles that are thousands of kilometers away, but the signals received from these over-the-horizon (OTH) targets propagate through the upper atmosphere under far from ideal conditions. In the case of these targets, the achieved resolution of the radar is greatly reduced by environmental effects on the signals as they propagate through the upper atmosphere.
The method improves the resolution of radar by independently correcting for the environmental effects on the signals received at each antenna. The method approximates the signals that would exist under ideal conditions and updates them over time to track the random fluctuations observed. Through experiments with SuperDARN, The team observed a reduction of the uncertainty in determining the direction of a target by as much as a factor of 10.
While the inventors have developed the environmental distortion correction software with HF OTH systems such as SuperDARN in mind, the techniques and algorithm could be used with any system that suffers from an equivalent type of wavefront distortion.