Radar's Replacement? Magnetic Fields Track Aircraft

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New technology now being studied in Europe can track aircraft by detecting tiny changes in the Earth's magnetic field, according to a recent report in ICTWeb. Structures that cause "shadows" for today's radar systems -- a problem for ground surveillance at large, sprawling airports -- do not impair the magnetic field detectors. Recent tests of the system in Greece and Germany showed that it could detect 100 percent of the passing aircraft, and pinpointed their location to within 7.5 meters [25 feet], a level of accuracy comparable to most existing air traffic management systems, says researcher Haibin Gao. The system uses an array of small, cheap sensor units, which could be as small as a coin in the future. They can be installed at the entry and exit points of each runway, and would be affordable even for small airports.

The researchers now are looking for investors to certify the technology and bring it to the market.