Production capacity is main challenge for spectrum-efficient US surveillance

30 November 2017
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta (left) tries out Raytheon’s Virtual Reality exhibit during the ATCA Annual in October 2017, which explored a range of different surveillance solutions to meet the US Spectrum Efficient National Surveillance Radar (SENSR) programme. Source: ATCA

The cross-agency team tasked with developing a new surveillance infrastructure across the United States is expected to release its first requirements in the first quarter of 2018.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released USD71.5 million in June 2017 to cover initial research, engineering studies, economic analysis, and planning for the Spectrum Efficient National Surveillance Radar (SENSR) programme.

Four agencies, led by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and including the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), make up the SENSR team tasked with submitting a plan to free up a minimum of 30 MHz of the 1300-1350 MHz bandwidth for reallocation for non-federal use by 2024.

A public auction of this spectrum - proposed to meet expanding demand for wireless internet - could raise an estimated USD19 billion, with up to 75% used to fund new surveillance technology.

The solution from the SENSR team is to combine air traffic surveillance, weather, and security surveillance, currently operating on different parts of the radio spectrum, into a single ‘system of systems’. Leading sensor manufacturers agree the way to fulfil demand for such a multi-functional system is by bringing together a range of capabilities. In a keynote speech at the ATCA convention in October 2017, David Wajsgras, president of Raytheon Intelligence, Information, and Services (IIS), described SENSR as “the single biggest changer in the way air traffic management is executed today”.

Raytheon is one of a handful of companies hoping to play a lead role in the programme: principally as systems integrator, but also as a technology provider. Bob Delorge, Raytheon IIS vice-president for transportation and support services, told Jane’s that the timing of the programme is a key factor. “There’s an aggressive schedule to get out of the spectrum in a hurry; it’s a capacity issue,” he said, adding that Raytheon plans to form a team combining the best of its own and others’ technology.

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