Annual Report 2019

Wachtberg-Forum marked by three anniversaries

70 years of Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, 10 years of Fraunhofer FHR, 5 years of Cognitive Radar: 2019 didn't only bring the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft's big anniversary, but also two more reasons for the institute to celebrate in 2019. The 9th Wachtberg-Forum on July 4th provided the appropriate setting.

© Fraunhofer FHR / Hans-Jürgen Vollrath
© Fraunhofer FHR / Hans-Jürgen Vollrath
© Fraunhofer FHR / Hans-Jürgen Vollrath

Fraunhofer FHR celebrated one decade as part of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft at the Wachtberg-Forum 2019. The institutes of the Forschungsgesellschaft für Angewandte Naturwissenschaften (FGAN) were integrated into the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in 2009. Since then, numerous renowned research and development projects have been completed with partners in industry and science, while Fraunhofer FHR saw its budget double to 38.4 million euros and its staff size increase from about 200 to more than 350.

The Wachtberg-Forum was created for orders from industry as a platform for the communication with customers and clients the same time the institute was opened. FHR has been presenting its newest developments and future prospects in the field of radar research with an exhibition and presentation area at the Forum every year since 2010. The Wachtberg-Forum 2019 was the largest one to date: Nearly 200 professional visitors made their way to the institute's premises that features the »ball«, the highly visible space observation radar TIRA. The scientists of Fraunhofer FHR showcased the versatile applications of radar in a clear and practical manner. Space observation with radar, drone defense systems and applications to increase the safety of autonomous vehicles took center stage.

Politics, Science, and Defense recognize the development of the Institute

Welcome speeches were held by Susanne Schneider-Salomon, Group Manager of Non-university Research Organizations in the Ministry of Culture and Science of North Rhine-Westphalia, Lieutenant General Klaus Habersetzer, Air Operations Center Commander, Renate Offergeld, Mayor of Wachtberg, Elisabeth Ewen, Human Resources Director of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, and Prof. Dr. Peter Martini, Deputy Chairman of the Fraunhofer Group for Defense and Security VVS and Head of Institute of Fraunhofer FKIE. In addition, Dr. Norbert Röttgen, Member of the German Parliament, Sebastian Schuster, District Administrator of the Rhein-Sieg District, and Oliver Krauß, Member of the State Parliament, were there to catch up on Fraunhofer FHR's newest innovations.

Susanne Schneider-Salomon of the Ministry of Culture and Science congratulated the institute in the name of the state: »I would like to congratulate the institute for its success. We are proud of having Europe's leading institute for high frequency physics and radar techniques in North Rhine-Westphalia – particularly in light of the scientific achievements that back the rapidly increasing budget and staff numbers.«

Lieutenant General Klaus Habersetzer emphasized the important role of Fraunhofer FHR as a key partner of the Federal Armed Forces: »Your products are an important basis for the work done in the Space Situational Awareness Center. Your expertise and know-how are at the highest level. This is something we can rely on. Thank you very much for this.«

The headquarters of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft views the ten years of Fraunhofer FHR in an entirely positive light: »The integration of the institute into the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft was the right decision. Dual-use subjects, developments originally made for the military, are increasingly used for the civil sector, where they become successful or even turn into game changers,« said Elisabeth Ewen in the name of the Fraunhofer Board.

The two Institute Directors Prof. Dr. Peter Knott and Prof. Dr. Dirk Heberling also come to a gratifying conclusion: »Under the umbrella of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the institute successfully took the step into the free market. We are proud of the last ten years and happy to be a reliable partner for the defense and security sector as well as a competent point of contact for solutions in industry and business,« comments Prof. Knott on the anniversary. »Without our staff, who have been fully committed and willing to break new ground, this success story would not be possible,« adds Prof. Heberling.

Excellent Development of the Cognitive Radar Department

The Wachtberg Forum also celebrated the 5th anniversary of the Cognitive Radar Department at Fraunhofer FHR. The new Cognitive Radar Department was created in 2014, on the initiative of the Institute Director at the time, Prof. Dr. Joachim Ender. Prof. Ender recognized the paradigm shift and the potential the use of artificial intelligence had in radar signal processing, moving away from classical analytical procedures and toward data-driven approaches. In addition, the automotive and aviation industries saw the emergency of the trend toward autonomous systems, which could also be applied to a highly automated radar system. Dr.-Ing. Stefan Brüggenwirth assumed the management of the new department.

A lot has been achieved in the last five years: To establish Fraunhofer FHR as the world's leading player in this new field of research, the department had to develop an excellent expertise in the subject of artificial intelligence and high-level information processing. Thanks to the early initiative of Prof. Ender and the strategy of employing staff with a background in computer sciences, AI, or machine learning, Fraunhofer FHR was well-positioned in this now fully established research field right from the start. In 2020, the institute boasts one of the largest research departments for cognitive radar in the world. Milestones include the joint definition of a cognitive radar architecture with industry and the recently published IEEE AESS Special Issue on cognitive radar.

Since 2014, the department's staff has increased from 14 to 31. The future prospects are excellent as the trend toward AI and autonomous systems continues. In this process, the challenge remains of attracting the best minds in the AI area. »In this aspect, the young, dynamic team and the exciting research topic have allowed the department to grow continuously, and this is what we expect to see in the future as well,« says Dr. Stefan Brüggenwirth about the 5th anniversary of his department.

© Fraunhofer FHR / Hans-Jürgen Vollrath
© Fraunhofer FHR / Hans-Jürgen Vollrath
© Fraunhofer FHR / Hans-Jürgen Vollrath
© Fraunhofer FHR / Hans-Jürgen Vollrath
© Fraunhofer FHR / Hans-Jürgen Vollrath
© Fraunhofer FHR / Hans-Jürgen Vollrath