Radar sensors - always on board!

On land, on water, or in the air: Radar is a key sensor for more autonomy and safety in traffic. That is why Dr. Andreas Danklmayer, as the first point of contact, quickly connects customers and partners in industry with the right experts at Fraunhofer FHR.

Fraunhofer Netzwert Symposium am Dienstag (27.02.2018) in München. Foto: Marc Müller
© Fraunhofer/Marc Müller
Fraunhofer Network: Symposium on Tuesday (2018/2/27) in Munich. Foto: Marc Müller

Dr. Danklmayer, you have been the full-time spokesman of the business unit Traffic and with this, the face of Fraunhofer FHR for customers and partners in the traffic industry since the beginning of 2019.  Why is the institute taking this step?

All branches of the transportation industry are facing major new challenges: In road traffic, the focus is on modern driver assistance systems reaching all the way to autonomous driving. We are especially dealing with the higher safety requirements on the increasing shipping and air traffic, and in rail traffic there are new challenges, for example due to the higher utilization of the freight transport systems. The demand for reliable and efficient technologies is growing. We want to make the search for suitable solutions easier for our customers and partners with
a direct point of contact for the business unit Traffic.

Fraunhofer FHR researches and develops radar and high frequency technology. How can this contribute to solving these new challenges?

Cars that are supposed to drive autonomously or package drones that are supposed to fly autonomously have to be able to reliably recognize traffic routes and obstacles in any weather and light condition. Radar is capable of accurately measuring objects and distances regardless of the light, even in dust or fog. This makes radar indispensable for navigation and detection tasks. Landing helicopters can also rely on radar when swirling dust obscures visibility to the ground, and container ships can use radar to track each other as well as smaller objects in the water, e. g. water sportsmen and locate them anytime. In addition, radar can penetrate objects and is therefore very interesting, for example for railway companies in order to inspect track beds.

Radar has long been known in traffic: Many cars have radar on board and everyone knows the rotating antennas on ships. What does the Fraunhofer FHR offer here?

Yes, radar sensors with Fraunhofer FHR antenna designs have already been built into different types of vehicles more than 30 million times. But the requirements are changing: An increasing number of the driving public has to reach their destination safely with increasingly autonomous vehicles. In doing so, the sensors should be as small and as energy and cost-efficient as possible. And they should not interfere with each other. Nowadays, modern cars are equipped with up to 20 antennas, military platforms with even more than that! On the one hand, this calls for entirely new antenna concepts, such as miniaturized sensors that are perfectly integrated into the vehicle structure of cars or efficient, non-rotating low-maintenance antennas on ships. And on the other hand, signal processing has to become more intelligent, as it has to be able to detect the environment faster and better, while the system constantly adapts to the situation, in alignment with other sensors. With our enormous and broad range of expertise in terms of high frequency systems, electromagnetic simulation, signal processing, and classification, we are able to offer our customers comprehensive solutions tailored exactly to their needs, from consultation to system design and up to testing prototypes and small-scale production.

As the business unit spokesman, you mediate between industry and the experts at the institute. What is the biggest challenge involved with this?

Of course, it helps that I myself have been working in the business unit Traffic for a long time now, both as a scientist and as a part-time business unit spokesman and also because I know the technology and the industry very well. The challenge is to stay on the ball in both directions: being close to the pulse of the industry as well as professionally keeping track of things. This is the only way for me to bundle our know-how internally, uncover and recognize the needs of our clients, and communicate how we can help with radar.

With this new role, you are passing up on your own research activities. Will you miss that?

Well, Joseph von Fraunhofer is my role model here: He was a researcher and an entrepreneur as well. My spirit of research has not diminished because of my new role. And it shouldn't so that I can remain a competent contact person for our customers. The wheel keeps turning and I will always be excited about the newest results in research. I see it as a mission to feed important impulses from the economy into  Fraunhofer FHR research planning.