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Weather radar

São Paulo company develops and is going to manufacture novel meteorological equipment in Brazil

OMNISYSMeteorological radar screen installed at Mogi das Cruzes. The clouds, when they are deeper red, as shown on the scale at the side, will be filled with heavier rainOMNISYS

From being an importer of meteorological equipment, Brazil is on the verge of becoming an exporter, entering into the world group of manufacturers of this equipment, dominated by the United States and Japan. The situation is a result of efforts by Omnisys, a technology based company located in Sao Caetano do Sul, in the Greater São Paulo region. In partnership with the company Atech Tecnologias Críticas, based in São Paulo city, it has projected and manufactured a prototype of a meteorological radar and is ready to supply the equipment to clients in Brazil and abroad. “We’re currently the only company in Brazil and indeed Latin America to develop a meteorological radar of the Doppler type that operates on the so called S band. The major difference with our equipment is its index of nationalization, approximately 95%. Even outside of Brazil, equipment superior in concept or technical solutions does not exist. By being competitive in terms of price, technology and performance, we believe that it can be a success in other countries”, says the engineer Luiz Henriques, Omnisys’ president.

Meteorological radars have a primordial function in the modern world. They provide vital information concerning natural phenomena, such as rain, cloud, winds, cyclones, hurricanes and the formation of thermal currents. Therefore, they are fundamental for several human activities, such as agriculture and aviation. The information provided by radars is also important for taking Civil Defense decisions – and the cyclones that hit the coasts of the states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul during the last few months do not leave any doubt about this application. The difference between a Doppler radar, similar to that developed by Omnisys, and a conventional radar is that the former provides more comprehensive information. As well as determining the intensity of the meteorological phenomena, the Doppler also manages to measure the velocity and direction of the clouds and rain. A conventional radar only determines the volume of precipitation in a determined locality.

“The Doppler phenomenon is associated with a frequency change of the working signal from the movement position to the target, whether it be a cloud, a car or an airplane. The radars used by the Highway Police to catch speeding motorists, for example, are of the Doppler type”, says Henriques. The technology of the new radar is based on the use of the S band, an operational electromagnetic frequency limited between 2.7 gigahertz (GHz) and 2.9 GHz. Its advantage over the band X radars, which operate at the 10 GHz frequency, is that of greater range. Whilst the latter named radars have an average range of 100 kilometers, those of the S band can reach targets of 400 kilometers.

The development of a national Doppler meteorological radar has brought various advantages to the country. Technological independence is the first of them. “With this situation, we no longer need to purchase devices from foreign companies and consequently we’re saving on the foreign exchange. A radar of this type, already installed, costs around US$2 million, says Henriques. Another benefit of the national equipment is logistics cost reduction, such as maintenance, repairs, as well as the agility in serving clients. The development of the new radar brings a further important gain for the country. “From the philosophical point of view, we’ve developed the major components by making use of national engineering and signing technological cooperation agreements with the University of Sao Paulo (USP), the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) and the Technological Research Institute of the State of Sao Paulo (IPT). We managed to train the specialized personnel and we financed masters degree grants for four engineers from USP’s Polytechnic School and from Unicamp”, says Henriques.

There is more: part of the technology created for the meteorological radar had already been used in the development of solutions for radars that graph trajectories at the rocket launch centers located at Alcantara, in the state of Maranhao, and Natal, in Rio Grande do Norte. Trajectory graph radars have as their objective accompanying the trajectory of rockets during their launch. Making use of the knowledge acquired in the radar meteorological project, in which the Omnisys company participated in the modernization of four of these air force radars by changing transmitters, receptors and obsolete processors for components and equipment of the ultimate generation. The meteorological radar had the funding of FAPESP through the Small Business Innovation Research (PIPE) program, finalized last year. In August of this year it passed with success in field acceptance trials carried out by the Air Force Command, which should become the company’s main client. By way of the Air Space Control Department (Decea), the Air Force uses the meteorological radars in the guidance of aircraft, identifying phenomena that could put at risk the safety of planes. “We’re concluding a contract for the supply of the first radar for Air Force Command, which will be installed at São Luis airport, in Maranhao. The delivery date is set for the first quarter of 2006”, says Henriques. The company has already demonstrated its radars abroad.

The prospects for this type of radar in Brazil are excellent, according to Omnisys’ president. The country possesses around 25 operational meteorological radars (16 for assistance in air traffic control and the remainder for civil applications), whilst in the United States, a country as extensive as Brazil, there are more than 250. Since it seemed  to be such a promising market, Omnisys and Atech teamed up and in 2004 founded a new company called Atmos, to act only within the meteorological sector. The company is already working on the mounting, as yet with imported parts and software, of a band X radar for the Integrated Hydro-Meteorological System of the State of Sao Paulo (Sihesp) (see Pesquisa FAPESP No. 108). Besides selling new equipment, Atmos is also carrying out the modernization, partial or complete, of radars already installed in the country.

Emitter and receptor
Omnisys’ new radar was baptized with the name RMD700S-1M and is already installed in the town of Mogi das Cruzes (SP). It is made up of five subsystems: a set-up formed by the antenna and the pedestal, a transmitter, a receptor, a processor and a piece of apparatus called the BITE, Built-in Test Equipment, which serves to monitor the working of all of the other radar circuits. The processor is responsible for the treatment of the information received by the radar and for the presentation of images. It is made up of hardware and software created by Atech. The other three subsystems were developed by Omnisys. As well as the resources from the Foundation, to the order of R$700,000.00, the company has invested more than R$2 million in the project.

The set-up of antenna-pedestal is the system that makes the interface of the radar with the environment. The antenna is a dish type of 4 meters in diameter, and its technology was developed exclusively in Brazil. The pedestal is the mechanism with the responsibility of making the antenna move, according to the commands received from the processor. “The quality of information received from the antenna depends on various factors, such as the velocity of rotation, the precision of its positioning and the parameters of radar pulse, which need to be very well controlled”, says Henriques.

The transmitter is the subsystem responsible for the generation and sending of the high frequency pulsed electromagnetic signal to the antenna. For this particular device,  unprecedented technical solutions were developed, the main one being a pulse modulator in the solid state. This equipment generates the high-tension pulse necessary to excite the oscillator valve, essential for the correct working of the radar. The novelty of the modulator invented by the Omnisys projectionists is that is made of semiconductor components, whilst similar and older equipment make use of valves. This change is advantageous for various reasons: an increase in transmitter trustworthiness, it facilitates maintenance work and improves the stability of the pulse generation.

Finally, the receptor receives the high frequency echo signals coming from the targets (clouds, winds, rain etc.) and to generate the signals of the corresponding video. It was projected as a modular concept, in such a way as to facilitate maintenance and the necessary adjustments for its perfect operating conditions, and was built with cutting edge technology, above all the low noise amplifier, which determines the radar’s sensitivity. The better the amplifier present in the receptor, the more sensitive and greater will be the system’s range.

A success story
The Omnisys company was founded in 1997 by three electronic engineers, Luiz Henriques, Jorge Ohashi and Edgard Lima de Menezes, who had worked over the years in Elebra, one of the largest Brazilian electronics companies during the decade of the 1980’s. In the beginning, Omnisys’ objective was to work as a systems supplier for aeronautical, naval and meteorological  applications, being firmly positioned as a third party service supplier. During 2001 it changed its company status and became a a mechanical and electronic manufacturer. Over the last five years it has had accelerated growth. It went from 10 to 170 employees and its gross income from R$700,000.00 in 2000, to probably reach R$23 million this year.

During the 1990’s the company participated in the process of the implanting of the Amazonia Vigilance System Project (Sivam). “By way of a contact at Atech, we were in charge of carrying out the field survey for the installation of 90 stations for exchanging data via satellite”, says Henriques. These stations, of nearly 2 meters in height, were targeted to provide communication in places of restricted access in the Amazonian Rainforest, such as indigenous settlements and Funai centers, for example. Currently, Omnisys is working in the defense, aerospace, meteorological and industrial automation markets, and has various contracts with the government, Brazilian institutions as well as those of other countries. For the National Institute for Space Research, the company is projecting and developing the data collection sub-system coming from the Chinese-Brazilian satellites, CBERS 3 and 4, and provided the on-board computers for the satellite CBERS 2B. Still in the space area, it is projecting and building a tele-measuring station destined to monitor conditions such as temperature, velocity, etc. of rockets during flight operations at the Launch Center of Alcantara, in Maranhao State.

Along with the French company Thales, the main European group in the area of equipment and electronic systems for flight protection, Omnisys is carrying out the modernization of a group of Brazil’s air traffic control radar stations. Also it is developing systems for radar installed by the French group in other countries. “Currently we’re working on the modernization of an air traffic control radar in Indonesia”, related president Henriques.

The Projects
1. S band apparatus for integrating into the Doppler meteorological radar system (nº 02/07910-8); Modality Small Business Innovation Research (PIPE) Program; Coordinator Luiz Manoel Dias Henriques – Omnisys; Investment R$ 286,804.60 (FAPESP)
2. S band transmitter for integrating into the Doppler meteorological radar system (nº 02/07909-0); Modality Small Business Innovation Research (PIPE) Program; Coordinator Jean Claude Lamarche – Omnisys; Investment R$ 167,228.00 (FAPESP)
3. S band receptor for integrating into the Doppler meteorological radar system (nº 02/07911-4); Modality Small Business Innovation Research (PIPE) Program; Coordinator Jorge Hidemi Ohashi – Omnisys; Investment R$ 250,092.40 (FAPESP)