Upgrade boosts detection of aircraft over utility-scale farms 

Source: Ariel Wittenberg, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, June 19, 2015

The Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration will now be better able to detect aircraft flying over utility-scale wind farms, thanks to a recently announced radar upgrade.

The upgrade only applies to air route surveillance radar, a series of search radars across the country used by the Air Force and FAA to monitor and control the nation’s airspace. Developed by the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security and FAA, it will use a new algorithm to recover lost radar coverage over wind farms.

Wind turbines have long posed a problem to aircraft detection systems because the spinning blades can either block or reflect radio waves from radar, causing “clutter.”

The clutter can work in two ways, either showing wind turbines as aircraft or failing to detect aircraft.

“This interference made it impossible to detect aircraft flying over or nearby wind farms,” Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Carrie Kessler said.

Military and flight officials are working on similar upgrades to short-range radars used for air traffic control and other types of radar, Kessler said, but that could take some time because each type of radar uses different technology to detect airplanes.