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New Radar Lets Planes And Turbines Coexist

Little known fact: Wind turbines make air traffic control nearly impossible. But Cambridge Consultants is testing a new kind of radar that would let planes and clean power play nice.

New Radar Lets Planes And Turbines Coexist
Cambridge Consultants

Wind turbines are great, unless you happen to be an air traffic controller. That’s because turbines in motion resemble moving aircraft on air traffic control radar screens. It’s such a big problem that Dr. Dorothy Robyn, deputy under secretary of defense in the U.S., said recently that wind turbines pose an unacceptable risk to national security and military training in certain areas.

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Cambridge Consultants, the technology development and consultancy company that brought us Bluetooth and the first GSM videophone, has a solution: 3D holographic radar that can differentiate between aircraft and wind turbines of all sizes.

Cambridge is spinning out a startup, Aveillant, to focus on the technology, which was developed with help from airport operators, wind farm developers, the U.K.’s Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and its Ministry of Defence. Unlike traditional radar, which only scans a narrow beam around the air traffic controller’s field of view, holographic radar illuminates the whole field of view at once. Since holographic radar continuously tracks a field of view, it can differentiate between moving and still objects (i.e. airplanes and wind turbines).

Holographic radar has other uses. Cambridge Consultants, for example, has been testing the technology to track artillery shells fired at high speeds. The technology could also be used for land mine removal

Cambridge has been working on radar for wind farm interference since 2007, and it ran a small scale trial in the U.K. in 2007. More recently, the company started working on a system design for turbines located near Prestwick Airport in the U.K. Aveillant will continue work on the project.

Aveillant already has three investors: Cambridge Consultants, DFJ Esprit, and the Aviation Investment Fund Company. Considering the value of the technology–a staggering 66% of wind farm applications in the U.K. are in a holding pattern because of radar concerns–it’s likely that Aveillant will attract even more investors soon enough.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.

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