La Trobe's Digital TIGER radar

La Trobe Engineering Project Nominated for 2014 Victorian Excellence Award

The Digital TIGER radar, designed and deployed by the Department of Electronic Engineering at La Trobe University has been nominated for the 2014 Victorian Excellence Awards. The Victoria Engineering Excellence Awards (VEEA 2014) are the preeminent program that recognises the contribution engineers make to community through their innovations, teamwork, ingenuity and creativity. The award program provides an opportunity to encourage excellence through the identification and promotion, both within the profession and the community at large, for outstanding achievements in the advancement of the science and practice of engineering.

A consortium headed by the Department of Electronic Engineering at La Trobe University and including Newcastle and Adelaide Universities, Defence Science Technology Organisation and the Bureau of Meteorology, has developed a new digital high-frequency (HF) over-the-horizon radar for ionospheric physics and sea state analysis research. The project commenced design and development in early 2010 and was officially completed in September of 2013. The radar is located at Buckland Park near Adelaide and extends the capability of two previous radars developed by La Trobe, operating in Tasmania and New Zealand. These three instruments, collectively known as TIGER (Tasman International Geospace Environment Radar) are key elements within the international SuperDARN HF radar consortium.

The Buckland Park radar represents a significant achievement for numerous reasons:

  1. It is the first fully digital HF research radar developed internationally. Compared to other SuperDARN radars it has greatly improved sensitivity, a wide field of view, and is designed to resolve the angle of arrival of returning echoes with greater precision.
  2. This has been achieved through innovative engineering including extensive use of new on-chip hardware and a new antenna design comprising of three parallel arrays, with the main array spanning 250 m.
  3. The design and construction, including on-site, was entirely undertaken by the La Trobe team.
  4. The project was completed on time and well below the initial budget of $1.7 M. The savings resulted from numerous innovative and novel techniques in the electronics, signal processing and infrastructure.
  5. Students were extensively involved with design and construction work, providing hands-on high-end experience and training. Students are undertaking on-going projects to exploit the radar's technical and science capabilities.
  6. In addition to the engineering firsts, the Buckland Park radar has been designed to achieve a number of science firsts. Its field of view overlaps those of the Tasmanian and New Zealand radars but it is the first to provide extensive coverage extending from polar to low latitudes, spanning an area larger than the Australian continent. The radar is providing new insight on both large and small scale structures and perturbations in the ionosphere over ranges from nearly overhead to 5000 km distant.
  7. The radar detects meteor trails, geomagnetic storms capable of causing large scale disruptions to communications services and critical infrastructure, and provides important information for shipping communication systems which presently rely on information from dozens of ionosonde instruments which have limited in field of view and are hard to maintain.
  8. Development of this new radar has attracted international attention including purchase of another such radar by the British Antarctic Survey, cloning of the system by the South African National Space Agency, and expressions of interest from the Nagoya University Solar-Terrestrial Environment Laboratory and other parties.
  9. The project outcome has demonstrated that through innovation and effective collaboration, Australian Universities are capable of carrying out cutting edge research & development. This project will increase Victorian and Australian recognition as a world leader in the development of advanced remote monitoring instrumentation.

For more information on the research group and the radar click here

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