Human and Environment


Radar technology is becoming ever smaller and cheaper – now reaching a degree of miniaturization that brings it closer to humans. But where does it make sense to the use of radar in relation to humans? Generally, everywhere where geometric and kinematic values are measured, i.e. where the shape and the movement of an object are to be analyzed.

Radar for Human

One example is checking the vital signs, i.e. breathing and the pulse rate. In this case, radar is used to measure the movement of the chest to conclude the breathing rate, while the pulse rate is deducted from the movement of the skin – and similar to the scanners at the airport, this is can be done through the clothing. One area where this is useful is for newborns in hospitals. Firstly, the small body does not offer much space for sensors, secondly family members are often irritated by seeing the small life-form immersed in cables. Further applications are possible in the areas of care for the elderly, sleep laboratories, or even fitness. As far as the signal processing is concerned, a lot of research work is still required in this attractive field. As one of Europe's leading radar institute, Fraunhofer FHR is optimally positioned for these challenges.
Radar is also well-suited for other questions involving man, such as movement analysis, be it for gait analysis in sports or in rehab. For example, together with partners, the staff in the Business Unit Human and Environment conduct research on the question of how relieving postures can be detected after an accident.

Radar for Communications

It is not only in the medical environment where radar has a lot to offer, but also in the area of communications. One field of interest is human-machine interaction. For example, many new generation smartphones are already equipped with an integrated radar sensor. The advantage: The sensor recognizes gestures even through clothing. Thus, a user can answer a call with a gesture without having to take the phone out of her jacket pocket. Gesture recognition via radar also makes sense in the area of occupational safety. Thus, you no longer need to press small buttons with thick work gloves and can instead control the machines with gestures and hand signals. This especially makes sense in areas where textile-penetrating gestures are appropriate or where the working environment contains a lot of vapor and steam, for example. The Business Unit Human and Environment is optimally positioned with its expertise to respond to this trend and to provide companies with customized support.

Radar for the Environment

The term precision farming refers to increasing the efficiency in agriculture using modern technology. Radar sensors are an ideal fit for this task: It is harmless for people, animals, and plants and can provide not only images of leaves and stems, but also the possibility of examining roots, thus enabling plant-penetrating analyses. Preliminary work is already being undertaken in this field in the Business Unit Human and Environment. In the course of climate change, the importance of weather radar and the weather forecasts bases on it is increasing as well. While these are established technologies, there is still a lot of need for improvement. Here too, the Business Unit Human and Environment is pursing many ideas – because the technological advances that were achieved in the field of radar can also be used for weather radar. Therefore, the Business Unit is planning on expanding the competencies in the weather radar area.

The environment area also includes a flashing red warning light fitted to wind turbines to warn aircraft pilots. In many regions, however, aircraft are the exception. The ParaSol radar developed in the Business Unit Human and Environment recognizes approaching aircraft, allowing the flashing light to be turned on only when needed. The system has already been approved by German Air Traffic Control.


Technical contributions from the business unit

Quickly finding buried people in lage areas using a mobile radar device

Dr.-Ing. Reinhold Herschel

Operating wind turbines safely and efficiently: Using radar to measure distances

Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Jochen Schell