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High Resolution Radar Solution for Vessel Traffic Services

The challenge

In the 21st century, the rise in marine traffic at ports and other waterways highlights the pressing need for the utilisation of high-resolution radars to improve Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) efficiency. 

The increased presence of both small boats and ever-faster vessels, coupled with the requirement to ensure accurate target separation and dynamic hazard spotting, is causing conventional radar systems (X-band & S-band radars) to struggle to keep pace.  As a result, situational awareness, and response efficacy within VTS operations are compromised. To overcome these challenges, there is a need to integrate high-resolution marine radars operating within the W-band (76-77 GHz), to complement the traditional marine radars and provide high-resolution detection in all weather conditions. 


Long range radar sensors have long been a staple in Vessel Traffic Services, providing crucial data for various applications ranging from traffic management to port security. Traditional radar systems often require dedicated installation and mounting structures, including towers and fixed positions, which can be both costly and time-consuming to deploy. W-band radars on the other hand are much smaller and would require much less infrastructure overhead. 


While X-band radars offer long-range detection capabilities, they often sacrifice resolution for this extensive reach. This compromise in resolution can limit its effectiveness in scenarios where fine detail is crucial, such as in congested waterways where target separation in cluttered spaces is essential. Consequently, this limitation can hinder its utility in applications like ports and inland waterways: there is a gap in sensing capabilities.  

How will it work?

W-band radar is a novel sensing technique that combines the range and reliability typical of X-band marine radars with the accurate data yielded by alternative sensor solutions, such as lidar and camera-based systems. Navtech Radar employs its W-band radar technology as part of its market-leading solutions. With wavelengths of a few millimeters, Navtech’s sensors can achieve superb resolution, allowing developers to detect small objects as well as separate targets that are close together. The high-resolution, characteristic of Navtech’s radars, allows detection of small boats and people up to 3km. Radar returns are simultaneously data-efficient and information-rich: radar can observe multiple objects per transmission and detect their locations. Navtech Radar have been engineering radar solutions for the last 25 years and have applied this experience to ensure this technology is compact and affordable. 

The benefits

Navtech Radar’s 77 GHz W-band radars heighten awareness by enabling the early detection of risks such as close vessel encounters, route deviations, and vessels without AIS. This capability allows for timely intervention to mitigate risks and optimize vessel traffic flow, significantly enhancing traffic monitoring efficiency in VTS areas. 

Additional benefits include:

  • Rapid update rate for real-time monitoring and tracking of vessels navigating within the VTS area.
  • High resolution  to detect smaller objects, and buoys, even in congested waterways.
  • Sector blanking to customise radar coverage to specific areas as needed, optimising surveillance efficiency.
  • Easy installation with minimal infrastructural investment.
  •  Ability to operate in even the harshest weather conditions present in marine environments: unaffected by rain, fog, splash or changes in lighting.

Expected technical performance

  • Single sensor solution: 360° with sector blanking option.
  • Detects small vessels for up to 3km away
  • 76-77 GHz operating frequency  for better target detection, especially in cluttered environments.
  • Low mounting height requirement of up to 8 metres.
  • Real-time positional data provided at up to 1Hz.
  • Quick and cost effective implementation.
  • ASTERIX CAT240 data output
Internal Trial
Vessel Traffic Service Application in Appledore Devon, UK (2024)

Navtech ran an internal trial to assess the use of the W-band radar in VTS application. The trial was conducted in Appledore, Devon UK using Navtech’s 77 GHz W-band radar mounted at 6 metres above the water level at high tide. Two objects were selected to assess three of the radar’s performance capabilities: small target detection, target separation and detection range.  

Fig 1: Detection and tracking of an 8m rib vessel travelling at 30 knots while changing course. The target is first identified using the high-resolution radar, which is integrated with a PTZ camera for classification within our AdvanceGuard solution

Fig 1: Detection and tracking of an 8m rib vessel travelling at 30 knots while changing course. The target is first identified using the high-resolution radar, which is integrated with a PTZ camera for classification within our AdvanceGuard solution

Fig 3: A combination of a 2m tender and 8m rib was used to evaluate target separation. This clearly demonstrates Navtech's radars can be used effectively for target separation of small vessels without AIS.

This trial demonstrated the capability of Navtech’s high resolution W band radar to improve the efficiency of VTS applications particularly in complex ports and congested waterways.

Navtech Radar is now looking for partners within the marine industry, willing to collaborate on proof-of-concept trials using our radar sensor for small object detection, target separation, and detection of fast-moving objects.

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