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United Kingdom Wireless Networking Science

Britain Could Switch Off Airport Radar and Release 5G Spectrum 175

judgecorp writes "Britain is considering switching off air traffic control radar systems and using "passive radar" instead. A two year feasibility study will consider using a network of ground stations which monitor broadcast TV signals and measure echoes from aircraft to determine their location and velocity. The system is not a new idea — early radar experiments used BBC shortwave transmitters as a signal source before antenna technology produced a transceiver suitable for radar — but could now be better than conventional radar thanks to new antenna designs and signal processing techniques. It will also save money and energy by eliminating transmitters — and release spectrum for 5G services."
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Britain Could Switch Off Airport Radar and Release 5G Spectrum

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  • Good idea (Score:5, Informative)

    by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @04:01AM (#42893265) Homepage

    It works for detecting stealth fighters over Iran, it should certainly work for non-stealth commercial aircraft.

    • The stealth fighter is ancient technology. The faceted sides are because no on had the processing power to calculate radar signatures for rounded surfaces. The stealth generations as I recall:

      1st: cruise missiles
      2nd: B-1 Lancer
      3rd: F-117
      4th: B-2 stealth bomber
      5th: F-22 Raptor

      • by EdZ ( 755139 )
        You recall somewhat incorrectly. The F-117 was designed with radar and IR stealth in mind, but limitations in simulation (both computerised and by hand) at the time lead to it's faceted design. The B-2 was similarly designed, but with the aid of computer modelling to allow curves, making it more aerodynamic. The F-22 was designed to be stealthy, reducing radar cross-section through use of surface materials, internal bays and inlet design, but the overriding design criteria were for performance, not stealth.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      People could feel that 4g is fast enough and have absolutely zero interest in upgrading, thus robbing the UK government of over inflated profits at auction, then again, it has a higher number, consumers will happily buy in.

    • by shri ( 17709 )
      What could go wrong? In 10 years wireless transmitters may be deemed unnecessary as a major sources of entertainment are being delivered via IP or via DISH type satellite systems. Can someone draw a graph of how many shortwave receivers will be used v/s how much IP bandwidth major providers will be using?
      • Not quite sure what your point is. Mine is that airport radar is critical safety equipment that I don't want compromised so some teen can stream One Direction in HD.
        • by shri ( 17709 )
          What I was implying rather hastily was that these transmitters might not exist when they're ready to make the switch.
          • ah yes, that is possible. But cell companies will try to squeeze every last drop from their infrastructure so it will be many years before they go away.
        • Do you have any reason to believe this will compromise security? The story implies the alternative is better.
        • Not quite sure what your point is. Mine is that airport radar is critical safety equipment that I don't want compromised so some teen can stream One Direction in HD.

          Typical oldster, hey! leave us kids alone! no sense of fun yourselves, so you just don't want us to enjoy ourselves, it's not even fair, I'm going to marry Harry when I grow up, no one understands me...

      • I don't think satellite-based entertainment will ever really grow much, as it's not interactive enough, or at least too laggy. TV over IP over optical fiber makes much more sense to reach the houses, and terrestrial wireless for mobile devices. Question then is how much of that content will be consumed from the mobile devices.
        • by deimtee ( 762122 )
          It's too laggy if you use geostationary satellites. 36000km each way is too far.
          I have read articles that claim you could run a swarm of LEO satellites at 500 - 800 km high that talk to each other with lasers, and the ground with microwaves.
          Basically a mesh network in space. In remote areas you would beat wired speeds.
          Of course you need a lot of satellites for coverage, and a microwave transceiver for each connection to the swarm-net.
          Everything needs to know where everything else is (to point the lasers
    • First thing that could go wrong is a power cut. A traditional radar system can easily be run on a backup generator.

      A power outage in Guildford shouldn't cause flight delays (or worse) at Heathrow.

      • by Alioth ( 221270 )

        Well, firstly, since there are lots of transmitters, the loss of one in Guildford isn't going to shut the entire passive radar system down.

        Secondly, no one is talking about removing SSR (secondary surveillance radar) which is based off actively interrogating transponders fitted to the aircraft. Indeed, the CAA is forcing everyone to move to (very expensive) Mode-S SSR transponders, a technology that's really already obsolete.

  • Now when there is a fault at the transmission mast which interrupts your TV signal you'll no longer be stuck watching a blank screen: just go outside and look for planes colliding.
  • What is 5G? We've barely started rolling out 4G!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2013 @04:25AM (#42893357)

      Seriously... You've not heard of 5G? It's a whole G better than that dowdy old 4G. Better start saving up for it today!

      • I'm waiting for 8G (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gsgriffin ( 1195771 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @09:49AM (#42894981)
        I don't upgrade every year. I'm just waiting for 8G so the speeds will actually be as claimed for 4G
      • by rossdee ( 243626 )

        But how many G will the passengers in the plane feel when they whack into the ground at 300 mph

        • Depends on where they're from. Americans will experience significantly less Gs they have a much greater distance between the front of their lardass bellies to the back of their lardass asses to decelerate over.
      • By the time we get 5G here.....

        You will be using an IPHONE 10.
        Blackberries will be just fruit, until sued by Apple for trademark infringement.
        The whole world will be run on/by Androids.

    • by arekin ( 2605525 )

      What is 5G? We've barely started rolling out 4G!

      Let this short instructional film explain (it really explains nothing btw). []

    • I bet by the time those new passive radars are rolled out to production you will know 5G very well.
    • Since you ask, 5G is 49 meters per second per second. It's a whole 9.8m/s^2 better than 4G!
  • So the safety of air traffic will rely on infomercials being on all night? Sounds like something the FCC will jump in on too!

    The following is a paid advertisement, the views expressed are not the views of the network, we are however required by law to broadcast them to ensure the safety of air traffic throughout the evening. Please stay tuned for this important safety related broadcast.

    • by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Thursday February 14, 2013 @04:38AM (#42893441) Journal

      To everyone thinking that safety will depend on the TV transmitters being always on, this is likely to replace only *one* of the types of radar, primary radar (where you send out a signal and look for reflections). SSR (secondary surveillance radar) won't be going away. This type of radar sends out a signal and the aircraft actively replies.

      Primary radar is used to paint targets that don't have transponders. What the CAA has been angling to do for a while now is make Mode-S transponders mandatory in controlled airspace (they did want everything, including hang gliders(!) to carry a Mode-S transponder at one point). Therefore the cost will just be transferred to the hand-to-mouth sector of aviation if they want to still have access to controlled airspace.

      • by LoadWB ( 592248 )

        This addresses part of my question below. Thank you.

      • I understand hangglider users are rather annoyed at this: Those transponders are designed for extreme reliability and durability, and as such they are of considerable weight. Enough to seriously impair performance on such a small and lightweight glider.

        • I understand hangglider users are rather annoyed at this: Those transponders are designed for extreme reliability and durability, and as such they are of considerable weight. Enough to seriously impair performance on such a small and lightweight glider.

          Corner reflectors and tinfoil hats come to the rescue.

  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @04:37AM (#42893425) Homepage Journal

    Radar provider Thales has been given government funding by the Technology Strategy Board to investigate how existing TV signals could be used to locate and track aircraft

    Thales are just starting out on this. An industrialised solution is therefore a decade away from availability and another ten years from being accepted as a primary source of data on aircraft movements.

    • Radar is already secondary. Most information these days comes from GPS transponders on the aircraft, not radar. It's plotted on a radar screen but that's not where the info came from.

      • Primary surveillance works by reflection. Secondary surveillance works with transponders. Here in Australia secondary surveillance radars are being shut down to be replaced with ADS-B but primary radars are being upgraded.

    • That sounds about right for something that's meant to complement 5G cellular adoption, then.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2013 @04:56AM (#42893503)

    What do you see if you take a closer look into the VHF signals arround there?

    That's a 50Mhz TV transmiter carrier.

    A lot of aircraft reflections everywhere. ;)

    Sould be "easy" to implement a multistatic radar with gnuradio.

    73 de EA1FAQ

    • by Gordonjcp ( 186804 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @05:16AM (#42893593) Homepage

      Wish you'd posted that logged in so you could get the karma.

      Aircraft scatter on the microwave bands is good fun, with paths from Scotland into Norway and even as far south as Denmark. For those who haven't come across it, this is pretty much what the name suggests - point your aerial up and out over the sea when there are aircraft in roughly the right place, and listen for other stations doing the same and being reflected back off the aircraft fuselage. Because the signal is so tiny (a plane isn't that big, really) you need to use Morse code or one of the small-signal digital modes.

      FB QSO YR 599 OM
      73s de MM0YEQ

  • Are all TV transmitters in England government-run? The problem I see arising from this plan is privately-operated TV stations become a critical infrastructure and eventually fall under government control for integrity and safety purposes. If a TV transmitter shuts down for whatever reason, planned or other-wise, then that part of the air traffic system could fail or operate under reduced capacity. If required for air traffic control, would TV stations then become "too important to fail?"

    *sigh* Guess I h

  • People need to share HD videos of their shitty cats with their Facebook friends.

  • What I mean is could someone set up a directional transmitter in just the right way so that reflections coming off the place make it look like its a few hundred metres to the north or south and thereby cause a collision?

    • It is possible but you would have to jam all the Rx antennas to accomplish this, you would have to send a different signal to each Rx antenna if you sent the same signal from a single location it can be corrected for, being passive it may be difficult to locate all the antennas to jam them. The system works by using each Rx antenna's range and doppler readings and finding a common location for those ranges and speed. What I wonder is what will happen when sun sets, the ionosphere becomes unstable at sunrise
  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
    That's what we need, a system that provides absolutely NO accountability! Just crowd source "mission critical" stuff. What could possibly go wrong?
    • How is this "crowd sourcing"? They aren't asking the public to decode the radar, they are recognizing the waste in bandwidth to pour a constant signal into the sky when there are already dozens or even hundreds of transmitters doing this.

  • ...when power failures or other disasters take the TV stations off the air?

    • Switch to active-mode, seeing as there's nothing to cause interference with?

    • by Alioth ( 221270 )

      They will continue using SSR (no one is talking about getting rid of secondary surveillance radar, which is where you send a signal and a device on the aircraft actively replies with a packet of data), and continue using the signals from the transmitters that are outside of the power failure/disaster area. In fact this will likely be more resilient, because of instead of a very small number of special purpose transmitters providing the primary radar transmission (which are likely to be taken out by the same

  • Basically they mismanage their RF spectrum so much that they need to get rid of current services to make room for more services.
  • Not to be a Luddite here, but is 5G really needed?

    I mean at least in Canada, 5G is like giving the Amish a Porche 911, we just can't use it.

    I live in a country where "unlimited data" means roughly about 2GB a month, then the carriers start throttling and doing unsavory things to make sure my wireless data experience craps out long before I hit any real limits. So all 5G is going to do for me is ensure I have crappy wireless service about 4 days after my billing cycle begins anew.

    Also 4G is faster then most

  • Here in the US, there's been a lot in *increase* in radar use at airports... becuase they're now using it to view microclimes, as well... and planes have gone off the runways, and there have been other near accidents, that we now know had to do with sudden strong winds and bursts.


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