Military drones are shaping the future of national and international security in the world. Defensive drones are constantly being innovated every year to bring about ground-breaking changes. Drones are also being equipped with weapons to defend and strike against the enemy. Moreover, the US military has been a forefront of defensive drone technologies. In a new development, they plan to install ground-penetrating radar on their drones. Besides, the radar will be a first on a compact UAV and capable of surveying previously inaccessible locations.

The radar technology in use today

Currently, larger military vehicles are already mounted with large arrays of ground-penetrating radars which can detect improvised explosive devices. Smaller versions of this technology are also available commercially. However, to mount such radars on even smaller aerial vehicles is challenging.

ground penetrating radar on a military vehicle
Ground-penetrating radar on a mine detector

Such kind of radar is not just used for military purposes but has a wide range of uses in the industrial sector as well. It is used to find cracks and corrosions in pavements. Additionally, the radar has been previously used for bridge inspections by the Federal Administration’s Office of Bridge’s and Structures. However, mounting the ground-penetrating radar on smaller devices has not been attempted until now. This is mainly due to size, weight, and power constraints. The U.S Army is attempting to embed this technology onto a chip so that it can display a digital map of the surroundings. The map will be able to show the shapes, sizes, features of the environment.

Preliminary tests

Contractors who equip their drones with the ‘radar-on-a-chip’ technology, will have to clear a testing program at the Army’s Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Mississippi. They will be required to collect data on inert unexploded ordnance (UXO), synthetic tracer material and flora and fauna using radar on a chip operating between 100MHz and 5GHz attached to an unmanned system. Also, the objects of interest may be buried, unburied or partially buried in a 20-square-meter area. Additionally, the program will consist of flat, sloping, underground, indoor, and vertical terrain.

The success of the program would alleviate many of the limitations of traditional ground-penetrating radar technology. For instance, it will aid in UXO detection, improve mapping of tracer material and better identify flora and fauna.

With powerful radars like this one, a military survey of an area would become much safer, quicker, and cost-effective. Hostile surroundings can be thoroughly scanned by these unmanned aerial systems and only after analyzing the scanned data will the troops be able to move in.