Radar, a word in common usage today, is an acronym for Radio Detection and Ranging. It is a system based on electromagnetic waves that are used to identify altitude, direction, and range of moving and stationary objects. It can also be used to identify the speed of moving objects like aircraft, ships, and motor vehicles.
Sir Robert Watson-Watt is credited with creating the first practical RADAR system. In early 1935, he proposed a system that could detect and locate aircraft with the use of radio technology. On February 26, 1935, he successfully demonstrated the reflection of radio waves by aircraft. He received a patent for this invention on April 2, 1935.
In his work on electromagnetism, Maxwell had predicted the existence of radio waves. In the late 19th century, Heinrich Hertz proved that metallic objects reflected radio waves. Christian Hulsmeyer, for the very first time in history, demonstrated the use of electromagnetic waves to detect distant metallic objects. He came up with a devise for the detection of metallic objects and demonstrated it in 1904 by identifying the presence of a ship in fog.
In 1917, Nikola Tesla, a mechanical/electrical engineer and inventor, established the principles related to frequency and power level for primitive radar units. Before the Second World War, the efforts of the American, German, French, and British researchers, as also developments by the Soviets led to the creation of the modern radar equipment.
In 1934, Emile Girardeau, a French engineer obtained a patent for working on a dual radar system. Dr. Robert M. Page from America worked on the first monopulse radar during the same year. Around the same time, the collaborated efforts of P. K. Oshchepkov, a Soviet military engineer, and the Leningrad Electrophysical Institute, brought about the creation of RAPID, an apparatus capable of detecting an aircraft within a range of 3 km.
Zoltan Bay, a Hungarian physicist, created a working model of radar in 1936. The British were the first to use the radar system for defense purposes.
Radar technology is widely used for air traffic control and navigation. It finds applications in space-tracking systems. It is useful for weather sensing and biological research. The complex-looking radar systems find their roots in the fundamentals of electromagnetic theory. Isn't it amazing?