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Radar

radarRadar systems must perform massive signal analysis to convert information, collected by the antennas, into some form accessible by the user, be it an air traffic controller, weather monitoring or an embedded computer autonomously controlling a larger system (cars, robots, drones). Current state-of-the art radars perform this analysis by exploiting the capabilities of modern digital processors. The microwave signal is digitized and fed to one, many, or a combination of field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), digital signal processors (DSPs), graphic processor units (GPUs), or general purpose processors (GPPs) where it will be filtered, down-converted, weighted, delayed, combined, and passed through many  other algorithms to obtain the desired information with the required accuracy. Those digitally processing radars are dubbed Software Defined Radars, by analogy to the Software Defined Radios that are now being commonly used in the military and commercial sectors.

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The mere fact that the signal processing is now performed in the digital domain provides a huge advantage over the older and more traditional all RF implementations. The processing algorithms can be modified faster and easier in software than in an all hardware implementation. Depending on the application scenario, transmit and receive signal processing functions can be adapted on demand to suit requirements. New functionalities can be added withouComputer Boardt the need to upgrade or replace hardware components. Maintenance cost can decrease as the system can be upgraded or fixed in-situ.

But this flexibility comes at a cost, trading hardware inflexibility by added software complexity. Code generation and debugging is increasingly complex due not only to the number of algorithms that must now be programmed but also due to the distributed and heterogeneous nature of the hardware processing platforms required for radar applications. Nowadays is not uncommon to find applications that make combined use of GPPs, DSPs and FPGAs (some even using GPUs) where the application software is partitioned, deployed and configured across such distributed heterogeneous processors.

Software integration thus becomes in some cases a major source of cost overrun. Not to count that often most of the software-related work will need to be redone from the beginning with every new generation of the product, as the hardware platform changes.

With the growth of the software size and complexity, traditional approach to software development is increasingly inefficient, leading to lower productivity and consequently higher cost.

An approach to improve on this has been developed and adopted by military organizations for their communications systems. Under the joint efforts of US DoD’s Joint Tactical Networking Center (JTNC) (erstwhile JTRS) and the Wireless Innovation Forum (WInnF) (SDR Forum v2.0), a system design architecture framework has been developed promoting software portability and reuse, facilitating hardware upgrades and overall system scalability in an attempt to reduce development time and cost of new products. The software architecture, called Software Communications Architecture (SCA), has been adopted by the major Armed Forces around the world, and is now used by the major military radios manufacturers. The SCA promotes software portability and reuse to address software size and complexity growth in the Radar domain.

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