May 28
The Project that Changed the World: Radar

The Project that Changed the World: Radar

Created by Rachel Brompton

During the Second World War Britain developed Radar, a sophisticated system for detecting the presence, direction, distance and speed of aircraft ships. Thanks to radar German aircraft ships could be detected from up to 80 miles away, identifying target threats and ensuring that the British fighter forces were concentrated in the right areas. 

The advancement of radar like many great inventions was developed by numerous people over time, but the sanction of a number of projects during the Second World War saw the rapid development of radar being used in practice. Talk about the importance of deadlines, they didn’t know it then but project radar would alter the direction of the war, changing history forever.

In February 1935 Air Vice Marshall Dowding authorised a practical demonstration of radar to be performed. In a field, using The Heyford ( a slow & clumsy aircraft) and radio equipment from the BBC, steady signals were picked up from the flying machine at a range of 8 miles. This successful experiment led to a team of RDF developers expanding the radar system.

Put rather simply radar is when the energy from radio equipment reflects from the flying object and rebounds back into radio signals, identifying and measuring the object in sight.

‘In mid- June 1935, they had succeeded in detecting radar echoes from a flying boat at a range of 17 miles, and by September the range for the detection of aircraft had increased to 40 miles. By the end of 1935, they had increased the range so that they could detect aircraft as far away as 80 miles’ The Story of Radar Development

Wow that’s fast work!

Over the next two years large radar chain detection aerials were constructed which consisted of 300 high feet towers all over Eastern Britain. And as if that wasn’t enough the radar system was then developed even further to help identify targets. Named the H2S project, Alan Blumlein led his team to develop electronic circuitry, creating an image of the ground below for accurate navigation.

‘H2S went on to become one of the most important radar developments of the Second World War, allowing accurate bombing of enemy targets with a precision never before achievable’ The Story of Radar Development

Not only did the development of radar help Britain win the war, but it’s viewed as one of the most important technical accomplishments of the Twentieth Century, leading to a technological revolution.

Robert Buderi points out that it paved the way for expansion in other areas: 

‘radar has been the root of a wide range of achievements since the war…Because of radar, astronomers can map the contours of far-off planets, physicians can see images of internal organs, meteorologists can measure rain falling in distant places, air travel is hundreds of times safer than travel by road, long-distance telephone calls are cheaper than postage, computers have become ubiquitous and ordinary people can cook their daily dinners in the time between sitcoms' Wikipedia

We hope the story of radar has given you inspiration for you next project. For further interesting reading on radar see: The invention that changed the World

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