NATS looks for long-term solutions to deal with the problem of false radar returns from wind turbines
NATS' Great Dun Fell en-route radar station
Mon 6 Oct 2014 – The growth of wind energy has provided a challenge for air traffic control in the en-route and airport environments as wind turbines can interfere with operations – predominantly around surveillance. By creating what is called 'clutter', the turbines present a risk of false radar returns that appear to look like aircraft. In the UK, the national air navigation service provider NATS tries to work with wind farm developers to find a form of mitigation, usually based around the idea of 'blanking' the affected area and then, if required, infilling the area with coverage from another radar. NATS has been collaborating with developers and radar manufacturers on a more sustainable and scalable technology based solution and is now looking to share the latest developments and best practice.
Earlier this year, NATS announced an agreement that secured funding for Project RM – Radar Mitigation – that involves a technical modification to its en-route radars at Great Dun Fell and Lowther Hill.
“Developers Vattenfall and SSE were the first to sign up, and I’m pleased to say we now have more than 10 developers on board, which represents excellent progress,” reported Andy Sage, Head of NATS Information.
Away from the en-route environment, NATS has been working with a number of airports and radar manufacturers to test airport-based solutions. These include a trial with a Terma radar that the ANSP says is demonstrating consistent success in distinguishing even small aircraft from wind turbines at long range. NATS is also trialling a Thruput radar that specialises in filtering out the kinds of small turbines that are becoming increasingly commonplace.
“We know that each airport is different and has its own needs and challenges, which is why we're making every effort to work with a range of suppliers and manufacturers tailored to suit the needs of the developer and ANSP,” said Sage. “I like to describe NATS as being 'solution agnostic', and we are always happy to discuss new opportunities and technologies with any provider.”
This week, on October 8, NATS will be hosting an event for airports, developers and radar manufacturers in Birmingham, UK, to discuss the issue. “It’ll be a chance for airports to share best practice around managing their long-term risks as well as to compare the latest technologies on the market,” explained Sage.