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By Julian Nettlefold

BATTLESPACE visits Blighter Surveillance Systems at their Great Chesterford HQ to discuss the 10th Anniversary of the Blighter® radar.

‘BATTLESPACE editor Julian Nettlefold told the designers of the Blighter radar that in the view of the publication, the applications for this product were immense particularly in the area of remote battlefield surveillance and mounting on lightweight vehicles or robots.’ September 2003. It’s nice to be proved right!

By dint of the gestation period and the capital required to develop radar systems, the technology has routinely resided with the large prime contractors or electronic systems companies with access to government funding. Thus, when the Editor was invited to visit Plextek, a specialist technology consultancy in 2003 to see their new BLightER (now Blighter®) radar, we leapt at the chance. Ten years later with over 300 sales under its belt the company and its products are thriving.

Today, Blighter Surveillance Systems delivers an integrated multi-sensor package to systems integrators comprising the Blighter radars plus cameras, thermal imagers, trackers and software solutions. Its ITAR-free systems are used worldwide in commercial, government and defence markets in area and asset protection for national border security, homeland security, critical infrastructure protection such as airports, coastal surveillance, and in military applications.

According to Mark Radford, CEO at Blighter Surveillance Systems, a separate business within the Plextek group since January 2013, its radars are now deployed in more than 15 countries. Multiple radars are used at Heathrow, installed there under a 2012 contract, and other international airports, by the British Army for force protection, and in numerous area and asset protection applications.

“The technology choices we made back in 2003 about electronic-scanning and Doppler were right and the radar’s modular architecture and its scalability and extensibility has proved to be a great success,” said Mark Radford. “We believe we have the best value e-scanning solution on the market and our experienced design team continue to improve Blighter with new innovations. For example, Blighter’s the only e-scan radar to offer co-active FMCW Doppler fast-scan capability, a major advantage for heavily cluttered environments, and incredibly a Blighter radar can perform full 360 degree scanning and detect a man out to 7km while consuming just 38 watts of power!”

Blighter’s origins

It is worth looking at the history of Plextek to see the growth and diversity of this Company from humble origins since it was founded in 1989 by three people, Dr Colin Smithers and Tim Jackson, both ex-PA Consulting and Ian Murphy, ex-Ferranti and Vodafone, along with five staff. The original technologies exploited by Plextek centred around RF systems including telemetry and tracking systems for vehicles. The Group now employs over 125 people, turning over £25 million with six separate businesses – Blighter Surveillance Systems, run by Mark Radford, Plextek Consulting, run by Simon Cassia, Plextek RF Integration, run by Liam Devlin, Telensa, run by Tim Jackson which provides systems to monitor street lights, Red Cloud which supplies money transaction systems for the Third World run by Ian Murphy and Redtail, a vehicle tracking solutions business run by Colin Smithers.

“Plextek’s experience in both the telecommunications and defence market sectors allowed it to bring significant advantages, especially cost, to the design of the original Blighter portable radar system. The design emphasis focused on the capability that the radar can offer given standard system components rather than trying to design custom system components to achieve a certain performance,” Mark Radford told the Editor. “We were aware back in 2003 of traditional military ground surveillance radars and thought we could produce something smal

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