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NATO Science: High-altitude balloon-borne radar (WITH SUBS)

25 Nov 2020 10:53

Synopsis

NATO has a key role to play in emergency response and disaster relief. When a disaster strikes, getting an overview of the site is key to saving lives and stopping further damage. Until now, the only two options to get the big picture from far above have been aircraft or satellites, both of which are expensive and require infrastructure. But high-altitude balloons equipped with a new kind of radar promise to be cheap, rapid and fuel-saving. In this episode of NATO Science, we travel to the University of Pisa, where NATO scientists are working on the system in partnership with the University of New South Wales in Australia and with support from NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Programme. Footage includes images of the high-altitude balloon-borne radar system in action and scientists at work on the system.

Teaser

What soars up to the stratosphere to send back pictures on the ground? High-altitude balloons are the latest eye-in-the-sky technology.

Transcript

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) Dylan White (To camera) What flies higher than an aeroplane but lower than a satellite? What can save money, fuel and lives? A balloon! THE NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANIZATION Presents NATO SCIENCE HIGH-ALTITUDE BALLOON-BORNE RADAR WITH DYLAN P. WHITE SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) Dylan White This week we’re soaring up to the stratosphere to get a good look at the earth. Here’s our scientist with more. Project: High-Altitude Balloon-Borne Radar Participants: Italy, Australia Supported by the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme Dr Marco Martorella Professor of Radar Systems, University of Pisa, Italy SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) Professor Marco Martorella, University of Pisa When we need to take a look at a large area quickly, a disaster like a forest fire or flooding, we have limited and often expensive options. An aircraft can only fly up to 18,000 metres above the ground and has a limited viewing window. And it costs a lot in fuel and preparation. A satellite is another option, but we have to wait until it’s in the right position over the earth, not to mention the expense. High-altitude balloons are low-cost and rapidly deployable compared to aircraft or satellites. When we pair them with an imaging system, we can quickly look at an area of up to hundreds of square kilometres within hours. The balloon can be launched by hand and soar to a height of 20-40 km. They’re pushed by constant and regular stratospheric winds on a straight trajectory, so we can be very sure of their direction of travel. SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) Dylan White But how can a balloon take pictures of what’s happening on the ground? SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) Professor Marco Martorella, University of Pisa What makes our system really innovative is a technology called synthetic aperture radar, or SAR. Here’s how it works. A normal radar needs a very large antenna to get a high-resolution image. Not practical for a balloon. But SAR uses a composite of many low-resolution images taken rapidly within a certain time to build up a larger high-resolution image. We can even get the system back with an auto-deploying parachute combined with a GPS that enables us to recover the radar. This project is a first step towards equipping the system with a data link so we can get real-time pictures from our eye in the sky. SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) Dylan White Next episode we’ll take you to Montenegro to see a technology that could help responders save lives across borders. Check out the rest of the videos in the series to learn more about NATO science. This video contains copyrighted library material licensed by NATO, which cannot be used as part of a new production without consent of the copyright holder. Please contact Thomson Reuters and the University of New South Wales to clear this material.

Media tags

Reference
NATO826094
Date filming
14 Jan 2020 12:00
End date filming
15 Jan 2020 12:00
Location
Pisa
Country
Italy
Usage rights
USAGE RIGHTS: This media asset is free for editorial broadcast, print, online and radio use. It is restricted for use for other purposes. This video contains copyrighted library material licensed by NATO, which cannot be used as part of a new production without consent of the copyright holder. Please contact Thomson Reuters and the University of New South Wales to clear this material.
Type
Master