Build a Small Radar System

Build a Small Radar System

Are you interested in learning about radar by building and testing your own imaging radar system? MIT Professional Education is offering a course in the design, fabrication, and testing of a laptop-based radar sensor capable of measuring Doppler and range and forming synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery. Lectures will be presented on the topics of applied electromagnetics, antennas, RF design, analog circuits, and digital signal processing while simultaneously building your own radar system and performing field experiments. Each participant will receive a radar kit designed by MIT Lincoln Laboratory staff and a course pack.

This course will appeal to those who want to learn how to develop radar systems or SAR imaging, use radar technology, or make components or sub-systems.

During the course you will bring your radar kit into the field and perform experiments such as measuring the speed of passing cars or plotting the range of moving targets. A SAR imaging competition will test your ability to form a SAR image of a target scene of your choice from around campus.


Please note that laptops with USB ports are required for this course. The operating system must be Windows 7 or later, Mac OS X 10.6 or later.

Participants are required to have MATLAB installed prior to attending the course: minimum 2009b; 2011a or later preferred. The MATLAB Instrumentation Control Toolbox is also required.

A 30-day trial version of MATLAB is freely available at

All MATLAB functions will be provided on a CD.

Participants are required to have the Arduino IDE and SAMD core board package (for Arduino Zero) installed prior to attending the course. The Arduino IDE is freely available at

Each participant will receive a radar kit designed by MIT Lincoln Laboratory staff and a course pack.

Lead Instructor(s): 

Patrick Bell



Course Length: 

5 Days

Course Fee: 





  • Closed

It is highly recommended that you apply for a course at least 6-8 weeks before the start date to guarantee there will be space available. After that date you may be placed on a waitlist. Courses with low enrollment may be cancelled up to 4 weeks before start date if sufficient enrollments are not met. If you are able to access the online application form, then registration for that particular course is still open.

This course has limited enrollment. Apply early to guarantee your spot.

Participant Takeaways: 

Takeaways from this course include:

  • Understanding how radar systems work.
  • Understanding antennas and aperture.
  • Understanding pulse compression and SAR imaging.
  • Designing and building a small radar system.
  • Acquiring and processing Doppler vs. time radar plots in the field.
  • Acquiring and processing range vs. time radar plots in the field.
  • Forming SAR imagery of urban terrain.

Who Should Attend: 

This course is targeted for engineers and scientists who plan to design radars; use radar systems in a product or as the final product; work on radar systems, components, or subsystems; or are interested in using radar systems for observation of physical phenomena. Participants will learn how radar systems work by attending lectures, building their own radar set, and acquiring radar data in the field. Those who should attend include:

  • Developers of radar systems or components
  • Users of radar technology
  • Purchasers of radar technology such as automotive and government organizations
  • Commercial enterprises seeking to use or add radar technology to their product or develop a radar-based product
  • Defense industry or government personnel who want to learn how radar and SAR imaging works
  • Defense industry or government supervisors seeking to quickly educate employees
  • Unmanned vehicle or robot developers seeking to use radar sensor packages
  • Scientists who are interested in using radar technology for the observation of nature

Participants do not have to be a radar engineer but it helps if you have at least a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering or physics and are interested in any of the following: electronics, electromagnetics, signal processing, physics, or amateur radio. It is recommended that you have some familiarity with MATLAB. Each participant is required to bring a laptop (with a stereo-audio input) with MATLAB because this will be used for data acquisition and signal processing.

Program Outline: 

Day One
Session 1--1 hour:  Radar Basics (Lecture)
Session 2--1 hour:  Modular RF Design (Lecture)    
Session 3--1.5 hours:  Antennas (Lecture)
Session 4--1.5 hours:  Radar Kit Technical Explanation (Lecture)    
Session 5--1 hour:  Q & A (Discussion)

Day Two
Session 6--3 hours:  Radar Kit Fabrication Instructions (Lecture and Lab)    
Session 7--1 hour:  Doppler Experiment Example (Lecture)    
Session 8--3 hours:  Doppler Experiment (Lab)

Day Three
Session 9--3 hours:  Pulse Compression and add-to kit (Lecture and Lab)
Session 10--1 hour: Ranging Experiment Example (Lecture)    
Session 11--3 hours:  Ranging Experiment (Lab)

Day Four
Session 12--1.5 hours:  SAR Imaging (Lecture)
Session 13--0.5 hour:  SAR Imaging add-to kit (Lecture)    
Session 14--1 hour:  SAR Imaging Experiment Example (Lecture)
Session 15--3 hours:  SAR Imaging Experiment (Lab)

Day Five
Session 16--3 hours:  SAR Imaging Experiment continued (Lab)    
Session 17--1 hour:  SAR Imaging Results & Competition (Lecture and Discussion)

Course Schedule: 

View 2017 Course Schedule (pdf)

Class runs 9:30 am - 5:30 pm Monday through Thursday, and 9:30 am - 3:00 pm on Friday.

Participants’ Comments: 


"I learned many new concepts during the course and the presenters were very helpful and excellent."


"The explanation of the radar theories and the hands-on building and testing of our radar systems really helped me get a better understanding of everything. Also, the course instructors were very knowledgeable (and entertaining!!)"


"Somewhere between INCREDIBLE and FANTASTIC."



This course takes place on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Fundamentals: Core concepts, understandings, and tools (60%) 60
Latest Developments: Recent advances and future trends (25%) 25
Industry Applications: Linking theory and real-world (15%) 15

Delivery Methods: 

Lecture: Delivery of material in a lecture format (34%) 34
Discussion or Groupwork: Participatory learning (33%) 33
Labs: Demonstrations, experiments, simulations (33%) 33


Introductory: Appropriate for a general audience (50%) 50
Specialized: Assumes experience in practice area or field (40%) 40
Advanced: In-depth explorations at the graduate level (10%) 10