Author Topic: question about radar  (Read 15534 times)

Offline notaperfectpilot

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question about radar
« on: January 27, 2012, 07:40:05 AM »
I have a question about the way a controllers radar works. How does the radar identify you on the radar scope? Like, is it essential that you have a transponder to even become an object on his radar scope? I know that the transponder sends data blocks that report altitude and stuff like that but if you were to turn off your transponder off, like they did in 9/11, would the controller still be able to see you on his scope? Thanks



Offline dave

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Re: question about radar
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2012, 07:42:57 AM »
With your transponder off you become just a primary target.  As a primary target your altitude is unknown but your position is still known (subject to the accuracy of the radar).

Offline notaperfectpilot

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Re: question about radar
« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2012, 07:45:48 AM »
ok, but at what altitude will they loose you? And does the primary radar just pick up metal objects out there or what will it actually pick up?

Offline rpd

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Re: question about radar
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2012, 12:07:32 PM »
The altitude will vary depending on the distance from the radar site, obstructions, etc.  Radar picks up metal the best, but will show flocks of birds, precip, and sometimes even smoke from a large fire.

Offline notaperfectpilot

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Re: question about radar
« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2012, 12:13:23 PM »
so, if you were in an airplane and you turned your transponder off, you then fly level or below a mountain, how would the controller know you from a car or tower on that mountain?

Offline sykocus

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Re: question about radar
« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2012, 09:27:44 PM »
so, if you were in an airplane and you turned your transponder off, you then fly level or below a mountain, how would the controller know you from a car or tower on that mountain?

That's a lot of "ifs", but I'll give it a go. If you are that low in relation to a mountain it's possible there may not be any radar coverage so the controller would deny all service. If there is radar coverage and the controller has the a digitized radar the controller can "tag up" a primary target so it will show a callsign, type and even the altitude the pilot reports. If it's not digitized the controller would probably deny service. Another factor is cars driving on mountain roads move very slowly and erratically compared to the flight profile of most airplanes. And towers don't move at all. 
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Offline notaperfectpilot

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Re: question about radar
« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2012, 07:52:51 AM »
Thanks for the information, guys. The reason I was asking was because the other day I was talking with a pilot friend of mine and he mentioned that without a transponder, the controller would not be able to see you at all. He said that a transponder was essential for them to see you AT ALL. He also said that he had never heard of a 'primary radar' before. So I looked it up and sort of proved him wrong about that but then he asked me about that scenario that I mentioned above.

I know that the scenario that I gave would be pretty unlikely to happen at all and had a lot of 'what ifs' but I was just using sort of an extreme  :wink:

Offline eltors0

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Re: question about radar
« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2012, 09:25:50 AM »
To keep it simple, most radar systems have Moving Target Indicator filters that remove returns that are not moving or moving too slow. Other than that it comes from distinguishing what is clutter/permanent echo from what is possibly an aircraft.

Offline sykocus

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Re: question about radar
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2012, 10:53:37 PM »
Thanks for the information, guys. The reason I was asking was because the other day I was talking with a pilot friend of mine and he mentioned that without a transponder, the controller would not be able to see you at all. He said that a transponder was essential for them to see you AT ALL. He also said that he had never heard of a 'primary radar' before. So I looked it up and sort of proved him wrong about that but then he asked me about that scenario that I mentioned above.

I know that the scenario that I gave would be pretty unlikely to happen at all and had a lot of 'what ifs' but I was just using sort of an extreme  :wink:

An operational transponder is a requirement in certain airspace classes and controllers may deny service to a pop-up aircraft w/o a transponder depending on workload and radar performance. Also controllers don't like working planes without a transponder. But that is not the same thing of not being able to see a primary target.
Yesterday I couldn't spell air traffic controller. Today I R one.

Offline Casper87

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Re: question about radar
« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2012, 07:22:02 AM »
notaperfectpilot,

I've attached a screen shot showing raw (unprocessed) primary returns, clutter and SSR responses from aircraft.

C

Offline notaperfectpilot

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Re: question about radar
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2012, 07:38:33 AM »
So, I assume that the dots with numbers beside them are airplanes that have been identified on radar, the white lines are runways, and everything else shown is either mountains or other objects that the radar picked up?

Offline eltors0

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Re: question about radar
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2012, 08:34:10 AM »
Yes, but there is a primary target to the right side that is heading slightly southwestbound that could possibly be an aircraft.  You can tell by the target trail.

Offline notaperfectpilot

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Re: question about radar
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2012, 09:22:35 AM »
so the trail almost all the way to the right side is a target that is probably an aircraft but hasn't been identified?

Offline Casper87

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Re: question about radar
« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2012, 09:27:57 AM »
see attached.

The light blue circle contains and aircrafts Primary return with and SSR return overlaid, not necessarily identified; the to 4 digits of the label are the assisgned SSR code, below that is the Mode C readout and an arrow to indicate whether it's climbing or descending.

The green circle depicts a Primary return for an aircraft.

Yes the white lines indicate the extended centrelines, the background shading indicates different types of airsapce.

And the small, numerous orange dots are Primary returns which are clutter; terrain, weather, birds etc....

However as a previous poster explained; mountains and such are usually filtered out by use of MTI.

C

Offline Casper87

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Re: question about radar
« Reply #14 on: January 30, 2012, 09:34:37 AM »
The primary target to the East may or may not have been identified at the time. There are a variety of methods for identification of PSR targets; but if the aircraft wasn't talking to ATC unit then it would not be identified.

Even the aircraft wearing SSR codes are not necessarily identified

C

Offline notaperfectpilot

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Re: question about radar
« Reply #15 on: January 30, 2012, 10:31:19 AM »
so the amount of clutter that the controller actually sees depends mainly on the system and the filtering?

Offline Casper87

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Re: question about radar
« Reply #16 on: January 30, 2012, 02:14:44 PM »
yea pretty much; many approach radars nowadays a heavily processed so you get a cleaner picture displayed.

C

Offline notaperfectpilot

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Re: question about radar
« Reply #17 on: January 30, 2012, 02:20:56 PM »
Thanks for your help! Just one question! Where did you get those pictures from? Did you take them yourself?

Offline Casper87

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Re: question about radar
« Reply #18 on: January 30, 2012, 02:53:29 PM »
Your welcome.

The second one was from a Powerpoint presentation.


C