back to article Shoebox man-tracker radar flies in nimble drone

US wartech behemoth Boeing, in partnership with robocraft specialist Insitu and radar company ImSAR, has announced successful flight trials of a two pound man-tracking radar system "about the size of a shoebox". The NanoSAR radar fitted aboard ScanEagle Shoebox man-tracker radar fitted to ScanEagle miniplane. The "NanoSAR" …

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Coat

No, no...

"...it will make several of the current British programmes look even more like what they are: bloated pork-hungry dinosaurs, eating our armed forces alive."

No, no Lewis, don't hold back; tell us what you really think.

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Bronze badge

Boeing is big enough to sell a flexible package, for loads of money

I can see Boeing coming up with a package using a range of platforms, from the small drones to airliner-sized planes with room to carry humans, and lots of internal space that's easy to get at and has a radio-transparent skin. And even windows and a guy with binoculars.

You can't fit everything in a shoebox.

IBM can still sell big iron, but it's used in very different ways. What we're seeing, in terms of size and cost and performance, seems very like the emergence of the personal computer. And, for a variety of reasons, the military lagged behind the curve on that.

Of course, some of the things the military do are still quite low-tech. It's still essentially Victorian technology that delivers the kinetic energy to a target, however much refined engineering has been added since Sir Hiram Maxim.

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Fascinating

It's unfortunate that this technology is required but that doesn't take way from its brilliance. Fascinating stuff!

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Alert

So...

If it's built by a US company then it's good, but if it's a UK product it's pork? What a shocking conclusion! </sarcasm>

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The antenna dimensions and design make it pretty obvious that the resolution isn't going to be great - I suspect the 35cm number is very much an optimal figure and probably at minimum operating altitude.

The lack of on-board processing is another reason it's so small and light - with this type of system you're constrained by the size of the antenna you can install, the weight of the antenna array & back-end signal conversion hardware, and the sheer amount of processing grunt it takes to convert the radar data into imagery particularly in real-time. Obviously computers get smaller & lighter constantly for a given amount of performance, but it still wouldn't be trivial to make an ultra compact platform. Though at least with the toy antenna they don't actually have much data to worry about.

Adding MTI and using it to steer a camera is trivial once the data is processed so I don't dispute this could be possible and useful. But obviously that requires real-time on-board processing of the radar data, and a radar actually capable of identifying smaller targets...

But anyway... the main point of the article seems to be to imply that the US product is great and wonderful, and that UK products are (as usual!) a waste of time. Not only is this line getting a bit boring, but it also shows a complete misunderstanding of the differing capabilities of the platforms.

If you had any knowledge of the SAR systems you'd recognise the difference between a large airliner hosted system (eg. SOSTAR or Nimrod), a full-sized drone based system (e.g. Watchkeeper) and a micro-sized system (eg. nanoSAR). While each is useful you can't argue that one could replace another as they have very different capabilities in terms of range, scan area and resolution. This means they'll do different tasks in the field and while the large systems can do the job of the small ones it doesn't work the same way in reverse.

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It's also worth considering that if you spend cash on US hardware the money is gone, never to be seen again, whereas if you spend it in the UK most of it is quickly recovered via taxes on companies, workers, materials etc., which makes the bill not quite so bad. The Treasury makes the 'benefits' system work on this basis and I imagine they have similar thoughts when it comes to defence procurement. I would guess other factors like increased employment of skilled workers, possible export opportunities and maybe even buying the best system for the job also come into it.

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Finally, for future reference you'll probably find that a border surveillance system (eg. Eye o' Sauron) will work on a completely different principle as it would be about classic target detection & location rather than generating imagery. Such systems can detect you just from the motion of breathing, but they'll only flag range & bearing rather than producing one of those nice SAR images. There may be a degree of target categorisation too (e.g tracked vehicle, large vehicle, large breathing animal, small breathing animal) but that would depend on what was on the back end - generally a man with some headphones....

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Silver badge
Happy

Swarm tactics?

I like the idea of a group of ScanEagles working together - one with the SAR pack and maybe two others carrying a Hellfire each, and spaced out they would be harder to spot than the bigger Reaper. But I think the flying pork barrel of Watchkeeper has far too much momentum now, and there's nothing to stop them saying that the reduction in weight/size of NanoSAR allows them to strap more fuel/missiles to Watchkeeper.

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The Us are behind on this ine.

There is actually already a UK company producing a similar SAR radar that is lighter, and already capable on real time image processing.

http://www.selex-sas.com/EN/Common/files/SelexSAS_UK/pdf_datasheet/radar/picosar2.pdf

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Anonymous Coward

New Nimrod?

Surely the term "new Nimrod" is an oxymoron. They will just be rebuilt airframes with new electronics and engines, which judging by the farce the AEW version turned into, will go massively over-budget and never materialise. They are already at least 6 years overdue and at least a billion overbudget, and that even after cutting back from 21 to 12 aricraft.

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Stop

If I was bobbing around in the north sea.......

in my orange suit, I think that I would rather see and hear a Nimrod full of smoke floats, flares, rubber ducks and people than hear a sewing machine with wings and see nothing.

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Anonymous Coward

If I was bobbing around in the North Sea.......

or relying on them for intel in Afganistan, I would be worried about the Nimrod bursting into flames or shedding non-essential structural elements overhead. For our billions of pounds we could have gotten newer aircraft.

In fact, considering how late the upgrade is running, they could still opt for the 737 based P-8 project, get brand-new airframes and probably still be in on budget and on time. This obsession with "Buy British" costs the British Taxpayer and Soldier dearly

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Anonymous Coward

"Buy British"

It's not always a "Buy British" obsession afaict, but it's often a "Buy British Aerospace" obsession. BAe of course promptly subcontract huge proportions of the job out to the US (hello Raytheon etc), and/or import large numbers of US people (how many Yanks are still based around Warton? is that a bad thing?) ...

If the point of "Buying British" is simply to spend UK taxpayers money to preserve British skills and jobs, fair enough, but let's come out into the open and admit it, and then let's use the democratic process to spend the money where it can *effectively* preserve relevant skills and jobs, rather than taxpayer money not-very-secretly ending up in Prince Bandar's slush funds in Saudi Arabia, as currently happens.

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Go

Amazing image quality on existing technology

Having used the Scan Eagle in combat, I can personally attest to the extremely high quality of what I'm assuming was the "standard" image package.

I would love to see what these new technologies will enable American and British warfighters to do in the future.

On a somewhat related note, having worked with almost every type of special forces troops that are operating in Iraq today, I can say that the most professional and most fun to work with were British and Australian SAS and SBS.

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Anonymous Coward

Lewis...

"bloated pork-hungry dinosaurs, eating our armed forces alive"

is that pork as in long-pig?

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