A technological development is sometimes a matter of life and death. That’s especially true of radar. One of the first practical uses of radar technology—using reflected radio waves to detect the range, angle, or velocity of objects—took off in the early 20th century as a simple device to help ships avoid collisions in fog. However, it wasn’t until the pressure cooker of the WWII era that entire countries began taking radar seriously as a matter of national security—secretly investing heavily in the development of it—that the technology really took off in spades.
Now, radar technology is essential to the safety of the people and property surrounding the use of heavy-duty vehicles—equipment that moves the big initiatives of the world forward in terms of mining, municipalities, construction, transportation, and more. So how did radar technology evolve over this time, and what are the major hits and misses in the development of it?
Radars in Wartime
The US Navy coined the term RADAR, an acronym for radio detection and ranging, in 1939, but the technology really began taking off years before. Eight major players in world politics at that time—including Japan, Germany, the UK, USSR, France, and Italy—independently began developing top secret radar systems as early as 1934.
These radar systems produced short pulses of radio energy to locate land, air, and sea targets relative to an antenna. When these pulses hit an object like a ship or airplane, they bounce off it and back to the antenna. These signals are then converted into an electric signal that could be listened to on a receiver or shown on a screen. The position of a detected target is determined by measuring the time it takes the signal pulse to travel to the object, bounce off, and return back to the transmitting antenna.
The first use of this newly developed radar technology centered on combat operations. Talk about life or death situations. For example, radar allowed land bases to detect and take down incoming aircraft, even under the cover of night or in inclement weather.
One of the most famous radar systems of this era was the British Chain Home system. By 1940, a chain of several massive transmitter towers lined the entire UK. Though somewhat primitive, the Chain Home System made a huge impact in Britain’s ability to defend itself against incoming German bomber formations, but it would often detect ghost or false images created by conflicting radar pulses.
However, Nazi forces lost the element of surprise, and radar technology eventually helped Britain, and other allies, decisively win the Battle of Britain, and eventually the war.
Civilian Use of Radars
Nearly everyone pulled over for speeding has a basic understanding of how radar works in everyday life. Just like the early days of radar, the technology is a game changer in more ways than one. Modern radar combines advanced dielectric materials, integrated radio frequency semiconductors, digital signal processors, and more to make the systems more compact and capable. Instead of seeing just a blip on a primitive screen, modern radar systems often have imaging capability, yielding digitized signals quickly and easily for use with graphical overlays.
Radars are now used extensively for everything from air traffic control to hurricane and storm detection to even mapping the terrain of other planets. For the heavy equipment vital to industries everywhere, radar is essential to saving lives, and saving the day.
Founded in the post-war era of 1947, PRECO first developed the rear-backing system (think beep…beep…beep), now ubiquitous around the world. In 2000, PRECO patented Pulsed Radar Technology that detects the presence and range of short-range objects through small perturbations in phase, and/or the amplitude of relatively long duration, coherently related transmit pulses. These never-fail radar systems are designed to see into rear and side blind spots even in extreme environments and conditions, unlike any other radar in the industry. Part of what differentiates us is the extensive and rigorous testing we put our systems through before they hit the market. That way we feel comfortable knowing our radar will work 100 percent of the time.
Radars are still being used to save the day and map out the future of our nation and world. Stay tuned to the signals in the air—and don’t miss the next wave of technical evolution in life-saving radar technology from PRECO Electronics.