Air Traffic Management Magazine recently spoke with Kip Spurio, Technical Director for Air Traffic Services at Raytheon Intelligence & Space about this concept.  The aging infrastructure in use today by the FAA is aging. Some of the newest equipment is 20 – 30 years old.

Upgrading radar systems with newer technologies will enable safety for decades as this is equipment that does change that often. Additionally, the new airspace entrants to the National Airspace (NAS) will need newer technologies in place, such as active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar to provide situational awareness, UAS detection and eVTOL monitoring. These requirements are a challenge for some existing equipment.

Surveillance needs to address both cooperative and non-cooperative aircraft. Whereas ADS-B provides the required information for cooperative aircraft, non-cooperative monitoring becomes more challenging with new airspace entrants.

Raytheon Intelligence & Space shared their concept to resolve this issue. The first step would be to replace the old radar equipment – ASR 8, ASR 9 and ASR 11 – receive/transmit technology. This would not impact antennas or towers. The reduction in space and power required would result in a greener solution and would be transparent to the ATCOs who rely on it.  The second step would need to address new airspace entrants such as drones and eVTOLs in low airspace, a passive radar solution is required that does not have transmit functionality. This radar ‘listens’ by using the radio frequencies that are already in the air. Their Skyler solution is one example of radar to solve this problem and can also be used for weather information.

As our airspace begins to grow with a multitude of new entrants, this is another example of how existing infrastructure may need to be upgraded in order to maintain the same level of safety we currently expect in the world of aviation.