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12 Sep 03. Liam Devlin of Plextek Limited, the UK-based electronic systems specialist demonstrated its latest product the lightweight, low cost, high performance electronic-scan radar BlightER – Battlefield Light-weight E-scan Radar at DSEi. Plextek’s experience in both the Telecommunications and Defence market sectors has allowed it to bring significant advantages, especially cost, to the design of this portable radar system. The design emphasis has 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.

Using knowledge gained from the latest mobile telephone base station designs, the BLightER antenna is a complex to design, yet cheap to manufacture, printed antenna structure. The lack of active components allows antennas to be fabricated without the need for complex calibration functions.

Modern commercial handheld products and web-enabling technology is integrated into the product. The BLightER base unit contains almost a complete radar – Antenna, Tx, Rx, synthesiser, mixers, signal and data processing, power supply and a wireless data link. To provide the external user interface, the BLightER base unit hosts a web server with live processed radar information and control dialogue. This is linked by wireless, IEEE802.11, to standard commercial laptops and PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant).

The PDA or laptop simply uses its in-built web browser to view the ‘web page’. In practice, an application is downloaded via the internet link from the BLightER base unit to offer the appropriate interface for the particular handheld unit. Multiple users can view the radar or other sensor data, with authorised users having control of radar modes and active search sectors. The static electronic scan antenna offers great flexibility for optimising the radar mode for individual sectors and for allowing power management by snoozing between scans.

Other sensors can be included in or attached to the base unit to provide the users with greater situational awareness. An excellent example is the inclusion of a video camera to verify or confirm the detections being made on the radar. As a standard low-cost sensor the ubiquitous web cam is an obvious candidate, and for users requiring better resolution or night-time sensitivity, then alternative, more costly sensors could be included.

BATTLESPACE editor Julian Nettlefold told Plextek that 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.

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