Is It A Plane? A Wind Turbine? No, It’s A Pirate Ship

How do you tell the difference between an aircraft, an offshore wind turbine, or a pirate ship intending to hijack an oil tanker? Answer: holographic radar.

The recent act of piracy perpetrated against the Sirius Star super tanker has highlighted the advantages of holographic radar over more conventional systems.

Cambridge Consultants’ holographic radar technology could provide an early warning of pirate attacks. Before looking at that, though, let’s consider an earlier application that highlighted the need for holographic radar.

Wind farms are known to confuse radar systems operating in air-traffic control centres. That radar can detect an object’s movement, but its ability to calculate the object’s speed is limited.

The reason is because current radar systems scan by emitting a pulsed beam and detecting reflections back from moving objects. Since this sampling period is too short and the interval between scans too long, calculation of speed is erratic.

So, how is holographic radar able to tell the difference between an aircraft and a wind turbine?

Within holographic radar systems, the transmission and reception signals are complementary rather than symmetrical, as in conventional scanning radars. Consequently, holographic radar provides constant illumination of the field of view with sufficient RF bandwidth and return signal sampling to measure an object’s distance, direction, and precise speed.

With this data, more accurate predictions can be made of an object’s course. And in the case of wind turbines, it rapidly becomes apparent that the object is stationary.

When positioned on a vessel, holographic radar could detect small boats and analyse whether these boats are on a deliberate interception course. This could provide adequate warning to implement evasive manoeuvres or trigger self-defense mechanisms to repel pirate attacks. Conventional radar simply isn’t suited to close-quarter that type of surveillance.

Consequently, Cambridge Consultants’ holographic radar technology could provide merchant and naval vessels with an early warning of pirate attack. Due to the fact that approximately 115 vessels are being boarded a year, with 30 being hijacked, and nearly 600 crew being taken hostage, it would not surprise me if maritime insurance companies are soon calling for the mandatory installation of these systems.

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