Passive Hitchhiker Radar: Uses broadcast signals as transmitter

MIT Haystack and University of Washington researchers have developed and refined a series of instruments that harness existing broadcast FM and TV signals. Software defined radio and a sophisticated signal processing chain resolve turbulence in the ionosphere. Previous hobbyist efforts have also detected large, nearby hard targets such as airplanes, but detecting plasma turbulence 100+ km in altitude is a far more difficult task.

Passive FM radar site map New England.

Map of passive hitchhiker radar stations in New England showing plausible ray paths.

Michael’s contribution to this effort was automated computer vision algorithms detecting ionospheric disturbances. We have successfully demonstrated these detections and would like to find interested parties to collaborate with on passive hitchhiker radar ionospheric turbulence classification and characterization.

Range velocity map passive hitchhiker radar with ionospheric turbulence detections.

Automated detections (outlined in green boxes) of ionospheric turbulence in passive FM radar range-velocity maps.