Holographic Radar Offers Precision Detection and Tracking
The sheer volume of fast jet movements and the complex nature of their aerobatic displays at the annual Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at RAF Fairford in the UK means that the necessity to detect, track and monitor airborne ‘targets of interest’ is paramount from both an organisational perspective and a safety imperative. During the 2018 iteration of the event – coincident with the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force – Thales deployed a GAMEKEEPER holographic radar to help with this demanding task.
GAMEKEEPER, developed by Cambridge-based Aveillant (a Thales company since 2017), was originally designed for the detection and tracking of small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS). However, the system is sufficiently flexible to be able to track the aerobatic performance of fast jets, providing the RAF Charitable Trust Enterprises (organisers of RIAT) with full 3D location, speed and headings. “We’re delighted to give Aveillant the opportunity to demonstrate the performance of their radar at this great show, whose displays are amongst the very best in the world,” commented the Trust’s CEO, Andy Armstrong.
GAMEKEEPER forms part of the Thales HOLOGARDE solution, used to protect sensitive sites against approaching drones. A GAMEKEEPER radar has been installed at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport in this role since 2017.
The RIAT deployment provides Thales with a demanding environment in which to test and stress the technology’s capabilities. Not only do the immensely complex aerobatic displays demand instant and precise tracking information for critical decision-making, but the volume of traffic also has an effect outside the hours of the actual display. On departure day (which this year will be Monday 16 July) Fairford becomes the world’s busiest airport for about four hours, with an average of better than one movement every 60 seconds.
“We are used to detecting one type of difficult target – very small drones – but fast, agile jets is a different kind of problem. Fortunately, it is one that, with the right processing parameters in place, the radar manages very well,” explained Aveillant CEO Dominic Walker.