In October 2014, 550 exhibitors from around the world took part in the geospatial industry’s largest global event: the 20th Intergeo. For three days, over 18,000 people passed through the exhibition center in Berlin, Germany. They were interested in learning about the latest technological innovations in the fields of geo-information, geodesy and land management. One of the Brazilian products on display was the BradarSAR 3000, a compact radar designed for mapping and high-precision land surveillance. Easy to install and multifunctional, it can be attached to small aircraft to generate topographical maps, conduct geographic change surveillance – involving such things as deforestation, flooding, illegal invasions of property and erosive processes –, border control, search and rescue, land and sea surveillance and biomass estimation. Companies, government agencies and institutions from 60 countries have expressed interest in the radar developed in Brazil. The BradarSAR 3000 is part of the product portfolio of Bradar, a technology company owned by Embraer Defense & Security, which specializes in the development of comprehensive solutions in radar systems for defense, surveillance and remote sensing.
“The BradarSAR 3000 was a big hit at Intergeo. The equipment is innovative and was recently introduced with a high level of sophistication in a market with no global competitors. We believe it will be one of our major products for the international market,” says João Moreira Neto, Bradar’s technical director. The radar comes equipped with InSAR (Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar) and operates on the X and P frequency bands. X band frequency waves are reflected and scattered by the tree canopy while P band frequency waves penetrate foliage and are reflected by the ground and the denser tree trunks, enabling mapping of vegetation. The device is able to make high-resolution topographic maps of dense forest, in addition to measuring forest biomass. Another important feature of the BradarSAR 3000 is its capacity to operate in cloud-covered regions without sacrificing mapping precision. “Data acquisition does not depend on weather conditions. And, since it utilizes two frequencies at the same time, our radar allows us to obtain images with and without vegetation, revealing unknown surfaces such as water flows, clandestine buildings and other details,” says the 54 year-old Moreira Neto.
|São José dos Campos, SP|
|Nº of employees|
|Radar for ground surveillance, the defense industry, meteorology and air traffic control|
Founded in 1984 with Databus Engenharia, Bradar was initially designed for electronic engineering projects. Shortly thereafter, it expanded its operations to include the manufacturing of receivers and satellite TV reception equipment under the OrbiSat brand. In 2002, the company began operations in remote sensing with the development of OrbiSAR, an airborne radar system equipped with features similar to the BradarSAR 3000, only larger and heavier. Four years later, the company began developing radar for the defense industry in partnership with the Brazilian Army. In March 2011, Embraer acquired the OrbiSat Radar and Remote Sensing division and changed its name to Bradar. Bradar has now become part of a group of companies acquired by Embraer that includes Atech, Harpia, OGMA, Savis and Visiona.
“The sale of part of OrbiSat was a defining moment for the company because the resulting inflow of funds enabled us to continue designing and developing state-of-the-art radar. Today, all of our products have a domestic content index of at least 90%,” says Moreira Neto. In 2014, the company invested nearly R$1 million in research and development (R&D) activities – the same amount that is expected to be invested in the industry this year. “We invested in research and we believe that innovating is the best way to contribute to the development and sovereignty of Brazil,” says Bradar President Astor Vasquez.
Vital to Bradar’s growth, the R&D division is managed by a committee of 10 researchers led by Moreira Neto, an electronics engineer and graduate of the Technological Institute of Aeronautics (ITA). After earning an undergraduate degree in 1982, he went to Germany where he pursued a second engineering degree as well as a PhD from the Technical University of Munich. At the same time, he conducted research at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and in 1990 received the DLR Science Prize for his work in the field of synthetic aperture radar, which is an instrument capable of generating high-resolution images at great distances, such as from space. “In 1996, a German colleague and I founded Aero-Sensing Radarsysteme GmbH to develop radar systems. It received numerous prizes, including the 1997 award for Most Innovative Company of the Year from the German state of Bavaria. The next year, we were among the Top 30 Most Innovative Companies as ranked by the German government.” In 2002, once back in Brazil, the engineer, who had sold his share in the German company, joined the owner of OrbiSat to establish the company’s radar division, which 10 years later became Bradar.
Covering a total area of 2,300 m2, the company has a presence in three São Paulo municipalities. Campinas houses the radar engineering division, while São José dos Campos, Bradar headquarters, is home to the office of the president and the remote sensing and mechanical engineering divisions. The radar assembly department is located in Barueri, a municipality that is part of the Greater São Paulo Metropolitan Area. Of the company’s 250 employees, 180 are engineers, 15 hold PhD’s and 20 hold master’s degrees. “Sixty of our engineers work directly on innovations while the other 115 are dedicated to product development,” Moreira Neto says, pointing out that the company holds 19 patents and three registered trademarks.
Projects and versions
Eurico Vaz Junior, 34, holder of a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the Federal University of Itajubá (Unifei) in the state of Minas Gerais, is a Bradar project manager in the São José dos Campos unit who leads the Remote Sensing Systems Engineering Department. “In over 12 years of professional experience at Bradar, I’ve developed a multidisciplinary profile, operating in project management of new products, mapping operations management, coordination of hardware and software development and remote sensing systems operation,” he says. Vaz Junior was part of the group that designed and built the BradarSAR 3000 as well as the company’s other equipment such as Sarvant, a synthetic aperture radar designed using funds from the Brazilian Innovation Agency (FINEP) to be installed in unmanned aerial vehicles (AVANT). He has also worked on developing new versions of the OrbiSAR remote sensing radar, the mapping radar the company has used since 2002 to provide service in Brazil and abroad (see Pesquisa FAPESP Issues Nos. 89 and 149). He is currently working on a Brazilian army project to obtain the final missing pieces for mapping the Brazilian Amazon. Prior to that, Bradar had conducted topographic mapping using the OrbiSAR for clients in Italy, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama and Ecuador.
In addition to developing remote sensing radar, Bradar has also manufactured radar for the defense industry since 2006. Its pioneering effort was the low-altitude anti-aircraft artillery Saber-M60, created in partnership with the Brazilian Army Technological Center (CTEx). The radar tracks targets – clandestine aircraft, for example – within a 60-kilometer (km) radius and at a 5,000-meter altitude, transmitting real-time weather information to an anti-aircraft artillery operations center. Since it is lightweight and portable, it can easily be carried from one place to the next. “With the Saber-M60, Brazil became one of five countries in the world to possess the industrial know-how for this type of equipment,” Moreira Neto says. We supplied 22 of these radar systems for use by the three branches of Brazil’s armed forces in providing security for the stadiums that hosted the 2014 World Cup.
The equipment was also used during the Confederations Cup and the visit of Pope Francis to Brazil in 2013, as well as at the Rio+20 Conference in 2012.
A second member of this radar family, the Saber-M200, which has a 200-km radius, is currently under development and expected to be ready by late 2015. “The Saber-M200 will be the first low-cost global multi-mission radar – combining anti-aircraft weaponry, meteorology and some air traffic control functions. Germany has already requested information about it,” says the Bradar technical director. Electronics Engineer José de Jesus Capellaro, 52, was part of the team responsible for creating the Saber-M60 and is now working on another military product, the secondary radar system S200R. “It is an air traffic control radar designed and developed with funds from the company itself, from CTEx, ITA and FINEP for the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) for the purpose of interrogating transponders, the equipment that provides aircraft identification and altitude information. The S200R permits identification of aircraft within up to 200 nautical miles, about 370 km away,” Capellaro says. The equipment is in its final manufacturing stages and is expected to be delivered to FAB next year.
Among projects for future products, Bradar is working on radars designed for use in meteorology. The company is building meteorological radar equipped with “now casting” technology, which is able to make short-range weather predictions valid for three to four-hour periods. Given the name GRADE, the energy-efficient radar measures 2 meters in length and 2 meters in height and can be easily installed in remote regions not covered by large-scale radar. One of the researchers involved in its development is 37 year-old electrical engineer Eduardo Ribeiro da Silva. He is a graduate of São Paulo State University (Unesp) in Guaratinguetá, where he worked for 10 years in designing integrated circuits at Motorola and Freescale. During that period, he filed three patents on projects, mostly in the automotive industry.
In 2013, Silva joined the team at Bradar and in the following year began coordinating the creation of GRADE. “Late last year, we completed the radar integration and now we’re conducting analysis on signal processing and refining the data gathered,” the electrical engineer says. “The biggest difference between GRADE and conventional meteorological radar is that it uses a parabolic reflector instead of shafts, a modification that allows a set-up to rotate at speeds of up to 300 rotations per minute (rpm) thus providing a rapid read-out of weather conditions.”
Over 70% of professional staff in Bradar’s signal processing group, responsible for the design, implementation and testing of signal algorithms that are loaded on the company’s products, hold graduate degrees. Division Manager Marco Antonio Miguel Miranda, 27, earned an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at the University of Campinas (Unicamp), where he also earned his master’s degree and is now working on his PhD. “I started working at Bradar in 2009 when I was still an undergrad,” he said. “My doctoral dissertation has to do with meteorological radar. Recently, two colleagues and I applied for a patent to protect a technological solution offered by the GRADE meteorological radar.” One member of the signal processing group is Electrical Engineer Karlus Alexander Câmara de Macedo, 41. After graduating from the University of Brasília (UnB) and earning his master’s degree from ITA, he went to Germany in 2002 to pursue a PhD at the Universität Karlsruhe. “During that period – through 2008 – I worked at the Microwaves and Radar Institute of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). It was a very rewarding experience both personally and professionally,” he says. Now back in Brazil, the young man has been hired by Bradar and is now a member of the team responsible for systems engineering and defense radar signals and remote sensing. Today Macedo is working to complete the Saber-M200 radar, reviewing its signal processing system.
Many of the new products and technologies created by Bradar are being developed with the involvement of universities. “Unicamp is our main partner – we currently have more than 20 fellows at the institution –, but we also work with USP [University of São Paulo] of São Carlos, the Federal University of Ceará and PUC [Pontificate Catholic University] of Rio de Janeiro, among others,” says Moreira Neto. “We often want to locally produce certain imported components in order to reduce the cost and master the technology. So we have entered into university partnerships. This occurred recently with a processing board that is used in all our radar. Each imported unit used to cost close to US$34,000, and a single radar would end up needing 96 of these parts. Within 18 months we manufactured our own board, which is eight times more powerful than the imported one and costs a third of the price.