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Radar Challenge Washington

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Hosted by 2020 IEEE International RADAR Conference, Washington DC, USA

Announcing the Radar Challenge

The Radar Challenge is a new event co-hosted with radar conferences that enables participants to experience the magic of radar in a personal, tangible and experiential way—offering an opportunity to create and “see” invisible radar waves interacting with their environment. The event will host an unknown target scene that participants will then sense and decipher using their self-engineered “home-brew” radar. The goal is to build a community of radar builders that collectively explore the art of the possible in making “COTS-based” radars.

The Challenge

At the conference a challenge area will be set up comprising a curtain with a number of stationary & moving objects hidden behind it. The participants will be required to sense behind the curtain and detail the scene as accurately as possible. The participants will be judged on their ability to sense, accurately depict, & describe what is behind the curtain with more credit being allocated to inexpensive, novel, and innovative systems. Team entrants are encouraged. Each entry will be required to submit a concept paper to compete for the challenge awards to be presented at the conference.

Challenge Criteria

Criteria Weight
Collection, Performance & Analysis 60%
Design Ingenuity 15%
Performance/Price Ratio 10%
Packaging / Reproducibility 10%
Demonstrated Performance 25%
Overall Cost Pass/Fail
FCC Part 15 Compliance Pass/Fail
Paper / documentation: 40%
Bill of Materials 20%
Hardware & Software Design Overview 20%


  • Systems can only be constructed from commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components
  • Bill of Materials (BOM) must include source & price
  • Systems must be compliant with FCC part 15 (
  • The scene will be made available at the start of the conference & taken down prior to the banquet.


Maximum Value Radars COTS BOM < $750
State of the COTS Art Radars COTS BOM < $3k


The following deadlines apply to the challenge:

  • 30/01/20 Submission of four page concept paper
  • 29/04/20 10:00AM – Sensing Results Submitted


Anyone can submit their results, but participants will be judged based on the published criteria.  Anyone suspected of cheating will be disqualified.  First, second and third prizes will be awarded for each category.  Submitted results will be displayed, the winners announced, and prizes awarded during the banquet dinner.  The winning entries will also be published in the IEEE AESS Magazine.

Submission Instructions

Each team should submit a four-page concept paper in order to qualify for the challenge event at the conference. The deadline for submitting the concept paper is 30th January 2020 and the papers should be submitted by email to [email protected] and [email protected]. The concept papers should clearly describe the design that the team is taking as well as include the planned Bill of Materials (BOM).

2020 Concept Papers

J. Dougherty and S. Stone: Improved Candar Concept Paper

J. Dougherty and S. Stone: Low Cost COTS Radar Concept Paper

S. Flandermeyer, R. Kenney, H. Kim, K. Konyalioglu, A. Pham, and C. Schone: An All-COTS Autmotive Radar for SAR Imaging and Target Classification Concept Paper

H. Malik and J. Burki: "Radar-a-thon" Concept Paper

J. Shafner, S. Sandor, A. Brunell, E. Dieckman: "Radar-a-thon" Concept Paper

S. Song, Y. Deng, C. Duan, R. Xie, K. Luo: Moving and Stationary Target Detection based on TI's IWRA1843BOOST Platform Concept Paper

A. Speed, M. Ritchie: PRINCESS Radar System Concept Paper

S. Stone: Cheap X-Brand Radar based on RTL-SDR and TV Downcoverters Concept Paper

J. Vermeersch, C. Brady, M. Kunkel, T. Beard, B. Kistler, S. Jones, J. Gallagher, and J. Cross: Economical, Modual COTS Radar Concept Paper | Slides

M. Woollard, A. Bannon, M. Ritchie, and H. Griffiths: RAPHAEL COTS Radar Concept Paper | Slides

2020 Radar Challenge Prize Sponsorship


One SDR-KIT 2400AD2 radar kit -


Two uRAD devices -

MIT Lincoln Lab

RFbeam Microwave GmbH K-LC2 Dual Channel Radar Transceiver modules -


RSA306B USB spectrum analyzer -

Texas Instruments

Multi-channel transmit / receive analog front end - (AFE7769EVM, AFE7444EVM or AFE7422EVM) and capture card for radar development

Complementary Mathworks Software

MathWorks, makers of MATLAB and Simulink, is offering participating teams complimentary software, tutorials, and videos. Find out more about how technical computing and Model-Based Design can help you compete:


Could you provide more info on the challenge area, the curtain, the targets and the data required?

We intend to set up a scene consisting of fixed and moving objects. The scene will be set up in a room with a maximum depth of 20m so no targets will be further than that. The width of the room is approximately 8(?)m. A single 110V US electrical outlet will be provided. The intent is that teams measure parameters, such as location, speed, and separation distance on a small number of targets.  We expect that the primary targets will be a mix of calibration spheres and corner reflectors.  The curtain will be as is as transparent as possible in the RF bands while being highly opaque.

What type of sensing results is required for challenge? Would this just be test results of factory testing?

The goal of the challenge is for participants to use their radar to describe the scene in terms of parameters. We don’t consider describing the parameters of the scene to be consistent with what we consider factory testing.

Could you please provide a template for the format of the concept paper?

We don’t have a specific template, however, the document contents should match the challenge description. The concept papers will not necessarily be peer-reviewed or published, but act as a qualification for the challenge event at the conference.

The challenge is to build “COTS-based” radars. But how “COTS” does it need to be? Are we allowed to build our own boards/antennas? Can we fabricate, or do we need to buy every single part?

We consider COTs to be generally available components that anyone can order. This does not exclude fabricated PCBs or antennas where there is significant room for design innovation. Several papers have been published that take advantage of COTS components. We consider the following to be responsive to the spirit of this contest (although they are not clearly compliant to FCC frequency/bandwidth regulations):, and

Relatively low cost COTS radar modules are becoming available. Can we use those in our design?

Yes.  We know of people that have built radars around the RFbeam and Sage modules.  If you will use more nearly complete radars such as those available from Urad, Walabot, or National Instruments/Ettus, for example, then we would like to see innovation on the antenna, control, or software aspects.

Other than FCC compliance, are there any restrictions on operating frequency?


How do we prove FCC compliance? Would we have to qualify the Radar?

We ask that each team specify which section of the FCC Part 15 regulation they are using in their radar, along with the limits imposed by the regulations. And, then show that their design falls within the limits.

Are you going to monitor our transmissions during the challenge to ensure FCC compliance?

We intend to have a field fox or similar spectrum analyser set up with a broadband antenna where we will primarily be looking at waveform bandwidth and out of band emissions. We will not be set up to specifically test for compliance to the spectrum regulations, but more to ensure that participants are being treated fairly. For example, if it is obvious that a team is operating with bandwidth wider than allowed under Part 15, we will need to consider that team for disqualification.

How much processing can be done off-board? Does processing need to be done on FPGAs or can the data be processed elsewhere? Do the results need to be displayed in “real time”? If the processing is done on a computer or external processor, does the price of the computer factor into the overall price?

We assume a setup with the radar connected to a standard PC. Teams are free to choose where the processing is performed. Results do not need to be displayed in real-time, however, we expect teams to be able to deliver their results during the time allocated to them to solve the challenge (no multiple days of off-line processing). Real-time capability is also considered an aspect of design ingenuity. The cost of the computer does not factor into the price, as long as it is a standard PC.

Is the radar allowed to move?

Yes, the radar is allowed to move.

Do we need to include the track and cost for the mechanical positioner in our bill of materials?

No (?)

Is the acquisition and control platform (for example ADCs and DACs) included in the BOM or just the RF hardware?

If ADCs, DACs or control are integrated into the radar or are an add-in to a standard PC, then they will be counted as part of the BOM. Some architectures might require an FPGA to receive and do initial processing of the data. That will count as well.  A sound card or laptop audio interface that is part of a standard laptop/PC and used as an ADC and DAC will not count against the cost.

I don't clearly see the difference between the Maximum Value Radars and the State of the COTS Art Radars, could you explain it a bit further?

State of the COTS is all about performance. Maximum Value will weigh performance relative to the overall cost of the radar.



The challenge is organised by the 2020 IEEE International Radar Conference and the IEEE AESS Radar Systems Panel. In the case of questions, feel free to contact:
Phil Corbell ([email protected]) or Alex Charlish ([email protected])

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Field of Interest

“The field of interest shall be the organization, systems engineering, design, development, integration, and operation of complex systems for space, air, ocean, or ground environments. These systems include but are not limited to navigation, avionics, mobile electric power and electronics, radar, sonar, telemetry, military, law-enforcement, automatic test, simulators, and command and control."


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