The Advanced Networked Radar (ADRAN) Facility

Mapping and characterising low to medium airspace in an urban setting using radar presents significant challenges, especially for low observable targets such as drones and birds. The task of detecting, locating, tracking and identifying such small, low and slow targets, in dense clutter requires adaptation of both radar hardware and the processing algorithms.

The University of Birmingham has bought two staring radar from Aveillant Limited, a specialist manufacturer of counter drone radar, to set up the Advanced Radar Network (ADRAN) facility at its Edgbaston campus. This facility, funded in most part by the EPSRC Quantum Technologies Hub, is providing a dedicated testbed to understand how novel radar architectures can help us to meet these challenges.

First installation in November 2020.
Second installation in November 2021.

The first staring radar was installed in November 2020 on rooftop of the Gisbert-Kapp followed by the second radar installed just a few hundred metres away on top of the European Research Institute in November 2021. Each radar has a 90 degree coverage in azimuth that extends out to over 5km and overlooks a urban landscape that spans the high rise areas of the city centre and the adjacent suburbs of north west Birmingham. Each radar can be operated and monitored round the clock remotely. An onboard processor outputs live 3-D tracks labelled according to target type and all recordings including raw data is backed-up onto a large dedicated storage facility using a high-speed fibre link.

The staring radar are ubiquitous sensors that persistently illuminate a target area, and have ultra-fine Doppler resolution through extended dwell times on target. It can generate detailed clutter maps of the ground and produce high Doppler resolution spectrograms of moving targets. This is significant as radar performance is impacted by both clutter and target signature characteristics. The ADRAN facility is enabling both the collection of realistic urban clutter over extended periods and amassing an extensive database of drones and birds measurements to help advance radar signal processing techniques and support the development of machine learning classifiers.

Data from the UoB facility is supporting a number of research programmes funded by DSTL, Department of Transport and EPRSC involving collaborations across multiple departments at the university along with extensive engagement with industrial partners and academics from other institutions. For example, ornithologist from Department of Geology and Department of Bioscience are using heat maps generated with the radar data collected over days and weeks to map bird locations and movements within a dense urban environment to investigate potential changes that can be observed in the avian pattern-of-life.

Furthermore, multi-static measurements have commenced with the ADRAN facility where the eventual aim is to establish a fully coherent distributed networked radar to showcase multi-static operations in a dense urban environment. This will be achieved with a joined up programme with physics to synchronise the two radar with an ultra-stable low phase noise quantum oscillator. Work is on going to stabilise the Quantum oscillators and complete the network that will carry the optical signal to the radar cabin, down convert this to the necessary microwave frequencies before it can be injected into the radar to replace the internal conventional oscillator. The ambition is that a working demonstrator of two quantum enabled networked radar will help pave the way of adoption of quantum oscillators in commercial radar.