Are there any weather radars in civilian aircraft that uses active or passive array techniques? I know that the most of the radar used in the civilian aircraft use doppler effect and latest military aircraft use AESA radars.

  • $\begingroup$ Related: How does a PESA radar work? PESA/AESA can be used in Doppler detection, as @foot answered. PESA/AESA is related to the type of antenna used by any radar system. Doppler and ESA can work in many ways. A good example is the Doppler VOR, where the Doppler shift is created by the VOR station antenna (which is a PESA). $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Dec 19, 2018 at 15:28

1 Answer 1


Doppler and Electronically Scanned Arrays are different types of technology. Doppler is a method of using radar to determine relative velocity of a radar return. An ESA is a type of radar transceiver. Doppler is useful for detecting precipitation and would probably still be useful on an ESA radar.

Probably the main reason that weather radar has not widely gone to ESA is cost. Especially AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) is very expensive. In a military environment, the extra functionality makes up for the high cost. But current weather radar on aircraft works "well enough". The technology has been in use a long time and is well-understood. Advances in signal processing have brought more and more capabilities. There need to be large benefits to justify the expense of developing and certifying a new architecture.

One benefit of ESA radar can be the lack of moving parts. However, a single array would have a limited field of view, where current radars can typically see 180 degrees in front of the aircraft. They could add mechanical steering, but that would be even more expensive to steer something heavier and more delicate than the typical slotted antennas used today.

There's also the issue of military usage. Although many countries have developed ESA radars, there may be some government resistance to exporting that kind of technology.

Although current technology still struggles to detect hazards that lack precipitation such as clear air turbulence, the industry is looking to other technologies such as LIDAR to fill this gap.

  • $\begingroup$ Is there an performance difference between doppler and PESA/AESA when it comes to detecting precipitation and other weather phenomenon ? $\endgroup$
    – Huntkil
    Dec 13, 2018 at 18:47
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You missed @fooot's point. ESA is a method of steering the radar beam electronically. It is an alternative to mechanically moving the antenna to steer the beam. It doesn't change how the radar return signal is processed. Doppler is a method of signal processing that looks for the small frequency shifts of the returns due to the motion of the targets (precipitation in the case of WxR). It's a valuable tool in the WxR as the motion can indicate turbulence and wind shear. But it's a totally separate function from the antenna design. $\endgroup$
    – Gerry
    Dec 14, 2018 at 12:23

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