ATNS, CSIR making important progress in their joint passive radar project

10th May 2024

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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South Africa’s national air traffic control (ATC) agency, Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS), and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), have started joint measurement and surveying activities at the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) for the installation and test of a locally developed passive radar system. This joint project is the outcome of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) originally signed between the two agencies in 2017 and renewed last year. The MoU covers the deployment of passive radar technology for use in civil aviation operations.

“Passive radar is a type of radar that uses third-party illuminators, like public broadcasting services (for example radio), to locate and track aircraft by processing the signals reflected from them,” explains ATNS. “Passive radar does not require a dedicated transmitter subsystem, making it a cost-effective radar solution that requires no spectrum licensing and has significantly lower acquisition and operational costs compared to a conventional radar system. Passive radar can be used for air surveillance or to fill gaps in active radar networks, and in the long term, may replace primary surveillance radars.”

KMIA is the direct gateway airport for international travellers seeking to access the world-renowned Kruger National Park. It is located at Mbombela (formerly Nelspruit) in Mpumalanga province. It has been identified as the ideal location to test the passive radar system. These tests will include monitoring and characterising the system’s performance over a predetermined period. This will allow the current hardware and software iterations to be refined.

Both ATNS and CSIR engineers are involved in the current surveying and measurement activities. One main objective is to establish the coverage that the passive radar will provide once it is deployed at KMIA. The other main objective is to identify the sites for the passive radar antennas and the number of these antennas that will be required.

The project is being implemented using a firm systems engineering approach. The CSIR has developed the passive radar technology, while ATNS is providing the expertise regarding the configuration the system needs to meet the technical standards required for air traffic management, aligned with the Standards and Recommended Practices issued by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

The two agencies are making “significant progress” in the project, reports ATNS. The ultimate aim is the “customisation updating”, verification and validation of the passive radar ATC technology.        

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter





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