IMSAR and Optisys have collaborated on a miniaturized radar system to bring new capabilities and improved mission longevity to lightweight unmanned aircraft systems, according to a June 17 news release.

The combination of Optisys’s 3D-printed aluminium antenna arrays and IMSAR’s radar assembly will allow high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) platforms multiple modes of operation, such as imaging and moving-target indication, that were previously unavailable to them, according to the release.

HALE vehicles have tight size, weight and power requirements for equipment, which presents a variety of challenges when designing what they will carry, IMSAR Director of Radar Applications Ryan Bartley said. Complicating matters, when the distance between an aircraft and what it is communicating with is doubled, it is 16 times more difficult to send a signal. To overcome this, a larger antenna and/or more on-board power is typically needed, both of which strain the stringent SWaP requirements of these systems.

By reducing the parts required for the antennae aperture by 94 percent and pairing it with power-efficient airborne radar technology, however, the new system can be integrated in platforms continuously operating at over 60,000 feet above ground level in stratospheric environments. This increases imagery collection while decreasing the number of aircraft and satellites needed.

The project is under government contract, but the specific branch could not be shared because of government restrictions, said Bartley, who also could not disclose the specific fielding timeline, but said it was scheduled for a rapid timeline.

IMSAR is the primary contractor on the program and Optisys serves as a subcontractor.