Reconnaissance and protection in the field
Since it was founded almost 60 years ago, the institute has focused on all aspects of high frequency physics and radar techniques and established itself as a reliable partner for public sector clients and industrial customers.
Radar has always been a vital sensor in the defense sector. In practically all weather conditions, it delivers a variety of information and paves the way for the reconnaissance of unknown territories or the detection and location of unknown targets – on water, on land or in the air. With its extensive know-how, Fraunhofer FHR covers the entire spectrum of high frequency and radar techniques. It has decades of experience in the area of hardware development, extending from antenna design to prototype construction, and profound theoretical knowledge of algorithms, signal processing and radar operation control.
In addition to the surveillance and reconnaissance techniques, the scientists also investigate innovative concepts for camouflaging the radar systems as well as for jamming or deceiving enemy systems. Fraunhofer FHR evaluates new camouflage materials and methods in the course of regular measurement campaigns that are carried out for partners of the institute. Here, the scientists attach great importance to ensuring that the camouflage scenarios are as realistic as possible, for optimal camouflage is always adapted in line with the geographical and climatic conditions in the operational area. In this way, the German Armed Forces and industry benefit from an objective and independent examination of their material. In addition, the institute provides assistance in the development of modern processes for the jamming of external radar on all platforms.
In the imaging area, Fraunhofer FHR produces internationally acclaimed results. It carries out pioneering work in the area of Moving Target Indication (MTI) and is also an international leader in this field. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR focus intensively on the detection, tracking and classification of ground (GMTI), maritime (MMTI) and airborne targets. In particular, the detection of compact aircraft is an emerging theme. Here, the scientists are examining a number of approaches to remedy the capability shortfalls of the customers as quickly as possible.
The future: smart, modular, multi-modal
Smaller, lighter, more flexible – the demand for large-scale specialized systems will decrease in future. The focus will turn to the system's ability to adapt to various application scenarios. A growing number of customers now require modular systems, also from an investigational perspective. In this context, »software defined radar« is a promising approach. Intelligent software gives radar a greater degree of freedom and a wide spectrum of applications. The utilization of machine learning techniques and other methods from the area of computer science opens the way for cognitive radar. The research activities aim, for example, to develop a radar system which automatically adapts the waveform and other parameters to the environment in the best possible manner. This reduces personnel requirements and assists operators during situation assessment.
Fraunhofer FHR combines these skills with miniaturized systems, a further research field. Thanks to the development of its own chips on a silicon-germanium (SiGe) basis, complete systems, known as radar-on-chip, can be constructed on a surface of just a few square centimeters. This miniaturization not only reduces the volumes required for assembly but also lowers the costs and power requirements of the system. In addition, these innovative systems also respond to new demands: surveillance and reconnaissance personnel have a growing demand for indoor applications, particularly in urban environments. The agility and size of the carrier platforms used are of particular importance. Thanks to SiGe technology, high-performance millimeter wave radar systems are now available for use in small and medium-sized UAVs.
The implementation of cognitive systems on autonomous platforms will, in future, allow users to work with swarms of sensors which are easily deployable and simple to use. When radar systems are implemented as distributed systems within a network, the multistatic constellation leads to a significant performance enhancement: detection sensitivity increases, higher resolution measurement precision is achieved and environmental shading is reduced. Fraunhofer FHR has already proved this in a bistatic experiment. The institute is responding to the growing demand for multisensor concepts by engaging in internal research projects as well as through cooperations with specialized partners.
The radar experts
Fraunhofer FHR needs broad and in-depth expertise to meet its mandate of providing the Federal Ministry of Defense with comprehensive counseling and judgment capabilities. Hence, the scientists need precise knowledge of the technologies and processes that are currently available and they must also be familiar with their functionality down to the very last detail. The expertise of Wachtberg is intensively used and highly valued, inter alia, for the professional support provided during the development of the reconnaissance sensor SARah, the successor system for SAR-Lupe.
Fraunhofer FHR also brings its expertise to bear in various NATO task groups and other bodies. This leads to the creation of synergy effects that promote knowledge creation in national and international cooperations. In joint projects with industrial partners, the institute continuously integrates its research results into practical applications and products.