The more miniature the electronics become, the more applications they are able to find. A team of researchers has come up with a compact radar system that is about the size of a matchbox and can be used in drones, guidance system for people who are suffering from vision problems, and other gadgets where low cost and portability are driving factors.
It weighs in at under 150 grams and draws its required power from a 5V battery. It is capable of detecting and tracking a person walking at 12 meters or up to 20 meters, given that the ‘target’s cross section is higher’. It does the job that any conventional radar system does; detecting the size, speed, and distance of nearby objects. However, does it while being a fraction of the size of the conventional radar systems.
Seifallah Jardak from KAUST said, ‘Current radar modules are large and bulky. They also lose out on key details because they operate using long radio wavelengths. We wanted to develop a low-power, portable radar.’ Jardak along with the rest of the KAUST team worked in collaboration with colleagues from the VTT Technical Research Center of Finland for refining the technology to the point where it can carry out eight scans per second – the first prototype could only perform one scan every two seconds.
The scan frequency is of vital importance when it comes to monitoring situations in real-time. The devices rely on a frequency-modulated continuous wave (FMCW) kind of radar that created continuous pulses of radio waves of different frequency capable of picking up even small scale changes.
During the testing, the radar was able to pick up breathing from someone sitting in a chair. The shorter radio wavelengths imply a shorter range but a more accurate set of results as well over a small area. Jardak says, ‘To limit the size of our system, we chose an operating frequency of 24 Gigahertz. This enabled us to reduce the size of the microstrip antenna. Our design also has one transmitting and two receiving antennae, meaning it can better estimate the angular location of a target.’
You can watch the video below for learning more about this amazing matchbox-sized radar, and there is also a paper available online that describes the radar prototype in detail.