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Defense Case Study

Improving Detection Time for Threat Prevention with a 3D Radar System

The Situation

The success of a modern military depends on strong situational awareness. Our Taiwanese customer, a military research facility, was contracting a new 3D Radar system for Air Defense to improve its Threat Prevention capabilities. With software already written in CUDA, they were looking for a small form factor GPU solution, which could integrate to their existing COM Express based Single Board Computer (SBC) platform and provide the superior computing power needed to process information sent from radar and UAVs.


The Challenge

3D Radar uses range, azimuth, and elevation information captured by antennas in polar format. This polar format data is then converted to raster format information, which can be graphically displayed on radar screens. The scan conversion process for any radar is computationally intensive and for 3D Radar especially so. 

Not only are radar computations intensive, but they must also be performed at high frequency in real time to be effective. With space limited by the COM Express based SBC form factor of the threat detection system, the client explored various computing options but found that a MXM based graphics card made the most sense. However, most MXM graphics cards were made by commercial notebook manufacturers with little interest in long term embedded system projects. Our client needed an embedded graphics solution that would integrate well with their existing platform and also be backed by a reliable partner capable of providing long term industrial grade support. 


The Solution 

Based on Aetina’s experience in critical industrial applications, hardware and firmware know-how, manufacturing flexibility and ability to provide long-term engineering and product support, the client found we were their best option to support them as their GPGPU solution provider. 

After they chose us, we worked with the client closely to understand their computing needs and found that MXM based GPU computing was the best solution to meet the specific demands of 3D Radar on GPU performance. The specific card selected was the X3N745M-FN MXM, a MXM 3.1 form factor graphics card featuring an NVIDIA GT 745M GPU with 384 CUDA cores, adapted on a COM Express mezzanine board to integrate easily and flexibly into their existing radar platform.


The Results

The X3N745M-FN MXM proved to be the right fit, exceeding our client's performance expectations. The client was pleased that the COTS approach of a MXM-based graphics card reduced costs, development time, and was able to so easily integrate into their existing COM Express based system for a virtually plug and play installation. The software based CUDA based GPGPU solution provided a flexible development platform allowing rapid prototyping during the development process compared to FPGA development. The 384 CUDA Core GPU card also provided enough power to not only perform 3D radar scan conversion, but also power image visualization, meaning the SBC used a single Aetina GPGPU card to simultaneously perform 3D Radar processing functions as well as real-time display. 

Throughout the multi-year development process, Aetina’s engineering team collaborated closely with our client, performing hardware and firmware customization to optimize radar performance and providing guidance to them on CUDA programming. Thanks to Aetina’s product longevity support and technical team expert knowledge, the client not only had a 3D radar system that exceeded performance requirements but they had the confidence to research and develop next-generation CUDA-based technology, knowing they had a long term GPGPU partner in Aetina that could not only offer reliable graphics solutions but the long term service and support they needed.

The modular, compact nature of the COM Express based system with Aetina's GPGPU solution and the upgradability of the MXM based GPU card enables the lab to also easily integrate their threat detection system into future C4ISR projects for UAV, ground vehicles or maritime vessels easily, without need for extensive redevelopment and with the confidence that performance could scale to future processing needs.

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