Wind turbines in motion have a bad habit of mimicking aircraft on an air traffic controller's radar screen and that can cause the kind of confusion that could lead to a near miss or tragic end. Enter Aveillant, a new startup that has developed tech to provide accurate radar data and remove a barrier -- and a growing criticism -- that has plagued the wind industry.
The need is urgent, according to Aveillant, and its venture backers DFJ Esprit, Cambridge Consultants and the Aviation Investment Fund Co. Some 66 percent of all wind farm applications -- the equivalent of 6.5 gigawatts of capacity -- have been delayed due to concerns about potential confusion in the United Kingdom alone, according to Aveillant. The problem stems from current radar systems, which struggle to distinguish between the aircraft and the rotating turbine blades. This can cause air traffic controllers to lose sight of an aircraft on primary display screens and expose a vulnerability to national air defense.
Aveillant's answer? Ditch the traditional and develop a 3D holographic radar that allows air traffic controllers to spot even small aircraft in the vicinity of large wind turbines. Traditional radar works by scanning a narrow beam around the air traffic control tower's field of view and briefly highlights each subject and records its position. Holographic radar is a non-scanning, continuously tracking 3D radar that discriminates between turbines and aircraft based on differences in their behavior. Meaning, it watches the whole field of view at all times.
Aveillant is just getting started, making it difficult to predict its success. It does have solid backing and support from the wind and aviation industry. Aveillant was spun off Cambridge Consultants, the engineering and product development firm that was a pioneer in Bluetooth technology and has created more than 20 companies in its 50-year history. Successful trials of have been completed and the UK government's Aviation Management Board selected it last year as the leading radar in-fill solution.
While the company provides some details on the technology and history, it does not reveal the cost of the holographic radar system nor does it provide specific details about the potential market for this tech. The company said the UK and the United States show the strongest interest in resolving the conflict between wind turbines and air traffic control.
Photo: Cambridge Consultants