Aulos, the green radar
Paris Le Bourget International Aeronautics and Space Exhibition features the green radar from June 17th to June 23rd
They dubbed it the green radar for its ability to exploit electromagnetic energy available in the environment and to ensure "eco-friendly surveillance" without causing electromagnetic pollution. It's called Aulos and is the "passive" radar designed by Selex ES, a Finmeccanica company. For its innovative green features, the device won the Italian prize for industrial innovation in 2012 (known as the Masi Oscar) awarded by AIRI (Italian Association for Industrial Research) and reserved for private companies engaged in industrial technological innovation and sustainable growth.
The design of Aulos began in 2005-2006 and involved many Selex ES minds belonging to various company departments. But Aulos' "parents", that is to say those who contributed most to development of the family of passive radar sensors, include the designers Annarita Di Lallo, Miche D’Urso, Alfonso Farina, Riccardo Fulcoli, Agostino Longo, Riccardo Mancinelli, Matteo Sedehi, Enrico Tilli, Luca Timmoneri, who worked with the expert support of Antonio Angeli, Valerio Bassetti, Claudio Castagnone, Paolo Genovesi, Leo Infante, Roberto Lalli, Angelo Lo Re, Alessandro Manuale, Giancarlo Prisco. Program management was undertaken by Roberto Lazzari with the help of Giuseppe La Posta. The AULOS ® passive radar is part of the PNRM 56 research program, relative to a "passive FM band system for detection and tracking of airborne targets" co-financed by the Italian Ministry of Defence. Development, which started in 2005, ended in early 2012 with the creation of two systems in the FM band. Thanks to the results obtained, a second contract with the Ministry of Defence was signed in December 2012 for a different version that takes advantage of the Digital Video Broadcasting - Terrestrial (DVB-T) signal as a source of opportunities to be employed simultaneously to the FM signal. This will allow creation of a bi-band system (FM + DVB-T) with high flexibility of use in various operating conditions.
After the success obtained with the public at the Farnborough International Airshow, where, last year, the radar was presented to the public for the first time, this year Aulos will be showcased at the International Aeronautics and Space Exhibition at Paris Le Bourget, June 17th to 23rd.
Before the curtain rises on the international show, Planet Inspired asked one of the designers of Aulos, Enrico Tilli, to illustrate the new features of the Selex-ES radar and give a perspective of the scenarios that such a technology can open.
Mr. Tilli, Aulos has been dubbed the "green radar." What does this sustainability consist of?
"The first merit of Aulos is the fact that it does not transmit any type of electromagnetic wave. It is, in fact, a passive radar, which uses electromagnetic waveforms present in the atmosphere such as those of the radio or television. This involves the absolute environmental sustainability of the radar and the ability to position it even on the roofs of buildings without any collateral damage. We have installed it in complete safety on the roof of our company, where it works 24 hours a day. Furthermore Aulos has been dubbed 'green' because, in absence of a transmitter, it is designed so that energy consumption is reduced to a minimum. Some versions consume just 1.5 kW, about one-fifth of the average radar currently on the market. This means two things: that an ordinary domestic power socket is sufficient to make it work, and that it guarantees energy savings and, consequently, a significant reduction in harmful emissions into the atmosphere. A simple calculation is enough to understand the scope of innovation: to have a basis for comparison with another telecommunications apparatus, compare the consumption of the passive sensor described with the average consumption of a radio base station (RBS) as shown in the presentation: "Telecommunications plants: energy optimization and environmental control", issued by the National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, ISPRA (ISPRA Data Observatory, 2007) and available on the Internet. The average consumption of an RBS, similar to those installed on the roofs of houses, is approximately 4kWh. If we considered an operational lifetime of 20 years (the average for radar equipment) and 24-hour a day operation, the energy savings would be equal to 438000kWh, which corresponds to a saving of approximately 300 barrels of oil for every passive radar system, that is to say 135,000 Kg CO2 for each passive radar appliance. Last but not least, there is the economic advantage: because there is no transmitter, Aulos also has a lower cost, while at the same time boasting cutting-edge technology".
The technology behind Aulos allows the radar to monitor airspace without being detected. What are the advantages of this possibility?
"The advantage is that the radar is practically invisible. Not being visible, it is as if it does not exist. Aulos also works on FM and DVB-T, which allow us to trace even small targets, such as a Piper or objects flying at low altitude, without being seen. This advantage, coupled with the fact that our radar operates in a bi-static geometry (i.e. the transmitter and the receiver are not in the same spot), enables us to locate objects with greater precision".
Selex ES is planning test campaigns to define the performance of Aulos in a coastal setting. What could be the applications and what advantages would they give?
"We are testing the application in a coastal setting and we have already achieved excellent results. We have already carried out several tests at Lampedusa and Civitavecchia within the SeaBILLA program and we are investigating further improvements in the technology. The prospect is that of using Aulos in coastal surveillance, since the radar is already able to detect even the smallest boats".
Can passive surveillance also be used for private security systems? What might be the contribution of "green radar" in this area?
"Thanks to the technology on which it is based, our radar is also suitable for 'domestic' surveillance. However, for this type of application it is necessary to use a wider band than FM, for example a WiFi signal. But this is not the core business of this invention, which finds its main application in surveillance systems on a large scale as a support to active radar. There are in fact cases that require the active radio to be switched off; in these circumstances Aulos would take over, providing valuable assistance without being seen".
News that the Aulos project has been awarded the Masi Oscar has recently been received. In presenting the award, the AIRI president called the radar designed by Selex ES "an example of how a responsible approach is able to foster innovation in high-tech industrial sectors, respecting the criterion of environmental sustainability". What future scenarios are likely to open up thanks to the innovation contained in Aulos?
"I think the main scenario is to consider the green radar as part of a 'cultural revolution'. Generally, we tend to think that to design and produce in an environmentally friendly manner means an increase in costs. This is not always true: a green design can create competitive hi-tech products because, for example, they cost less in maintenance. If you can design devices that consume a fewer kilowatts, it opens up the option of powering them by solar panels: the customer will be happier because they spend less to power a much more complex and innovative apparatus".
Sustainable design. Is it governments that feel this need or is it companies, like yours, that dictate the pace of change?
"The input comes from us and, of course, from the external market. Which is gradually starting to ask for sustainability requirements to be used both in products and in research. Partly because of our culture, partly because it is inherent in passive radar technology, we began to ask ourselves questions and find innovative solutions. Such as Aulos, which is a device among the most sustainable in the world".
Toward what goals will Selex Es be directing research and testing in the field of passive control?
"We already use Aulos inside the company. But there are still many aspects to be studied and improved. Some products in the 'family' of passive radars are ready for commercialisation. Among these is the Aulos FM band sectorial coverage, a radar that provides approximately 80 degree coverage in the FM band”.