Reciprocity is known as that part of an antenna that is able to both transmit and receive electromagnetic energy. Antenna reciprocity is possible because antenna characteristics are essentially the same regardless of whether an antenna is transmitting or receiving electromagnetic energy. This condition allows most radar and communications systems to operate with only one antenna.

An automatic switch, called a DUPLEXER, connects either the transmitter or the receiver to the antenna at the proper time. Duplexer operation will be explained in later tutorials dealing with radar and communications systems. Because of the dual function of antennas, this section will discuss antennas from the viewpoint of the transmitting cycle. However, you should understand that the same principles apply on the receiving cycle.

Radar Fundamentals

Radio, television, radar, and the human eye have much in common because they all process the same type of electromagnetic energy. The major difference between the light processed by the human eye and the radio-frequency energy processed by radio and radar is frequency. For example, radio transmitters send out signals in all directions. These signals can be detected by receivers tuned to the same frequency.

Radar works somewhat differently because it uses reflected energy (echo) instead of directly transmitted energy. The echo, as it relates to sound, is a familiar concept to most of us. An experienced person can estimate the distance and general direction of an object causing a sound echo. Radar uses microwave electromagnetic energy in much the same way.

Radar transmits microwave energy that reflects off an object and returns to the radar. The returned portion of the energy is called an ECHO, as it is in sound terminology. It is used to determine the direction and distance of the object causing the reflection. Determination of direction and distance to an object is the primary function of most radar systems.

Telescopes and radars, in terms of locating objects in space, have many common problems. Both have a limited field of view and both require a geographic reference system to describe the position of an object (target). The position of an object viewed with a telescope is usually described by relating it to a familiar object with a known position. Radar uses a standard system of reference coordinates to describe the position of an object in relation to the position of the radar. Normally ANGULAR measurements are made from true north in an imaginary flat plane called the HORIZONTAL PLANE.

All angles in the UP direction are measured in a second imaginary plane perpendicular to the horizontal plane called the VERTICAL PLANE. The center of the coordinate system is the radar location. As shown in the figure below, the target position with respect to the radar is defined as 60 degrees true, 10 degrees up, and 10 miles distant. The line directly from the radar to the target is called the LINE OF SIGHT.

The distance from point 1 to point 2, measured along the line of sight, is called TARGET RANGE. The angle between the horizontal plane and the line of sight is known as the ELEVATION ANGLE. The angle measured in a clockwise direction in the horizontal plane between true north and the line of sight is known as BEARING (sometimes referred to as AZIMUTH). These three coordinates of range, bearing, and elevation determine the location of the target with respect to the radar.

Radar target position.

Bearing and elevation angles are determined by measuring the angular position of the radar antenna (the transmitted beam) when it is pointing directly at the target. Range is more difficult to determine because it cannot be directly measured. The radar system is designed to measure range as a function of time.

Since the speed of electromagnetic energy is the same as the speed of light, range is determined by measuring the time required for a pulse of energy to reach the target and return to the radar. Because the speed of the pulse is known, the two-way distance can be determined by multiplying the time by the speed of travel. The total must be divided by two to obtain the one-way range because the time value used initially is the time required for the pulse to travel to the target and return.

The discussion of microwave antennas in this chapter requires only the most basic understanding of radar concepts! Radar fundamentals will be discussed in more detail in our tutorials on RADAR.

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