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Radar sensing, serving more use cases than you think


An article written by Cédric Malaquin, Technology & Market Analyst, RF Devices & Technology from Yole Développement (Yole) in collaboration with Stéphane Elisabeth, Technology & Cost Analyst from System Plus Consulting for Elektronik Industrie.


As a longstanding sensing technology, radar has been developed over the decades across multiple markets for a wide variety of applications. Two of these markets are industrial and automotive, each having its own dynamics.

The industrial market initially requested a very specific different radar sensor for each application. Level probing of liquids and solids for multiple market verticals, as shown on Figure 1, presence or motion detection for building automation, ground probing supporting the building industry, navigation, and industrial automation with collaborative robots and drones were the main use cases. Indeed, radar operates in a different environment from one application to another. It can be mounted on top of a building’s door, on a ship mast, in a factory line or on the top of a tank. Therefore, radar had to comply with different regulations, if any existed, and had to span across a wide operational range of frequency bands. The volumes of sensor produced for each application is relatively low, but the specificity is such that the selling price is generally high. On the ecosystem side, companies have specialized in one or two particular use cases, for instance Siemens, ABB and Krohne are selling radar sensors for level probing applications, while Furuno and Lowrance are active in maritime navigation, Leica geosystems and IDS geo system (now part of Hexagon) offer ground probing radar.

The automotive market, on the other hand, needs a standardized radar sensing approach with the longest possible range, the widest field of view, the best achievable resolution, and the lowest possible price. The most common mounting in automotive is behind a bumper, a brand logo or in front of a cooling grill, though sometimes behind a windshield for radar/camera combo sensors. Other mounting approaches are also being investigated such as in headlamps. The mounting location is carefully selected after considering the required detection performance, the heat dissipation capability – which is related to the performance – and the mounting space. Over the past decade, there has been a strong push from the automotive industry to standardize the operational frequency worldwide and to widen the allowed bandwidth to maximize the radar’s range resolution. Now the industry is coordinating to solve the up-coming interference issue through the German government funded project, IMIKO. Indeed, strong safety incentives from Euro NCAP (Figure 2) and others are driving the automotive radar market, which is growing very quickly in numbers.

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