Innovative Radar Technology for Cars to Make LIDAR Systems Antiquated

Fractal Antenna Systems is now working on making road tags brighter to vehicular radars to help improve driverless tracking, and enabling the antiquation of LIDAR systems. The new solution developed by the company can also be used for future flying cars/taxis, and even satellites.

FRACTAL’s new patented and patent pending technology utilizes a discovery made over a dozen years ago during the research on invisibility cloaks, themselves invented first (see US patent 8,253,639) and patented by the company. While reducing the reflected “scattering” to a radar signal, FRACTAL not only found a way to make the reflections disappear, but also found other unique fractal-based solutions that actually enhanced radar reflection. Such unusual reflectors are now called “super-scatterers”.

Super-scatterers are the puffer fish of electromagnetics: they have a radar signature or “radar cross section” (RCS) that is bigger than they really are. This RCS increase can be dramatic, in excess of 15 dB, with the fractal solutions. Furthermore, the RCS increase can be tailored at multiple channels or bands with fractals, allowing the radar to interpret the brightened fractal super-scatterers with a spectral signature, acting as an identifying “fractal license plate” on each, if desired.

FRACTAL has called the new system for tracking and identification as “RDiD”.

The super-scatterers solve the big problem of driverless cars, because they can be tiny to the  human eye, but much larger to car radars. These tags can be installed on roads, on signs, on barriers, and on vehicles. The proprietary invention also extends to including the fractal super-scatterers into road reflectors (visible light), extending the utility of a safety device already employed, and making it dual use. Car-based radar can be dramatically more effective with the radar-bright fractal super-scatterers. In contrast, LIDAR based systems, with their “car beanie" laser systems, no longer have an advantage over radar, and will eventually be antiquated. According to Fractal Antenna Systems, the expense and detrimental appearance of car LIDAR will disappear on future driverless cars and roads.

When radar looks up, the fractal super-scatterers will also shine. Flying cars - scaled-up drones—will also benefit from the bright fractal super-scatterers in the same way that driverless cars do, keeping flights in track and away from obstacles.

Tantalizingly, the fractal super-scatterers solve an urgent issue with space satellites as well. The heavens will explode with thousands of new satellites over the next few years, and most will be tiny “microsats”, the size of a fist, or smaller. These small satellites are not easily detected by ground radar, so they cannot be tracked effectively. This creates a huge problem for possible collisions and noisy ground station links. But a microsat with fractal super-scatterers has an RCS many times larger than the satellite’s area itself and can easily be seen by ground radar. They will enable an entirely new class of extremely small satellites, because they can now be tracked successfully. New fields of space-based enterprise will arise with such small satellites, brightened for radar with the super-scatterers.

According to Nathan Cohen, the technology’s inventor and FRACTAL's CEO, the super-scatterers will usher in a new era of radar applications that will have profound benefits to transportation, telecommunications, and space technology. Cohen believes that the benefits posed by fractal super-scatterers will look disruptive. They want people to think about what it means to have this technology and who will use it and when. What can the invention make possible that could not be done before? It’s exciting to understand that billion dollar industries will be enabled by tiny, beautiful fractals.