Wed, Mar 11, 2015 - Page 4 News List

New radar system to help in rescues

PROVEN EFFECTIVE:The body of a drowned student was located and recovered last year, highlighting the effectiveness of the primarily research-focused network

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Taiwan Ocean Research Institute research associate Lai Chien-wu introduces the National Applied Research Laboratories’ Taiwan Ocean Radar Observing System in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: CNA

The National Applied Research Laboratories (NARL) yesterday unveiled its recently completed Taiwan Ocean Radar Observing System, which researchers said is capable of intensive monitoring of sea conditions, greatly bolstering the nation’s capacity to analyze marine data, conduct rescue missions and contain pollution.

The system comprises 17 radar installations deployed along the nation’s shore and is set to obtain more accurate information on surface currents, such as the Kuroshio current, as well as the tidal movement of the ocean.

Beyond its main mission, the system is expected to greatly assist with rescue efforts and containing ocean pollution, as it can be used to locate fuel leaks or objects adrift at sea, NARL Taiwan Ocean Research Institute research associate and project leader Lai Chien-wu (賴堅戊) said.

Taking advantage of the Doppler effect — the change in frequency of waves from a moving object — the radar installations emit electromagnetic waves in a similar fashion to those shot from a radar speed gun used by police, Lai said.

After hitting an object, the waves bounce back — a phenomenon known as backscatter — enabling analysis of the object’s speed and location at sea, he said.

In the past, maritime rescue missions were carried out based on estimates of locations, determined after analyzing marine data produced over a span of 10 to 20 years. In contrast, the new system produces new data each hour and is capable of conducting analyses across an extensive area, he said.

Citing an incident last year in which a student was carried off by an ocean current after drowning in waters off Kenting’s (墾丁) Nanwan area (南灣), Lai said his team helped the Coast Guard Administration locate the body while testing one of the radar installations near the Ma-anshan Nuclear Power Plant in Pingtung County.

“The student drowned in the afternoon and was still missing by nightfall. Early the next morning, just one hour before the Coast Guard Administration set out to sea to continue searching, they asked for our help,” Lai said.

“Even though we did not know the exact location of the incident, we were able to infer the student’s location by analyzing the tides affected by the southwesterly air streams blowing in the area. We located the body within four hours,” he said.

He said that provided with coordinates indicating the location of an accident, the system can reduce the margin of error during rescue missions down to 1km or 2km, while operations conducted farther out at sea could be contained within a 10km radius for 12 hours — a major improvement to the nation’s preparedness during maritime rescue missions.

He said the NARL and the administration would collaborate on maritime rescue missions using the radar system in the near future.

The NARL put the finishing touches on the system when it deployed the last radar installation at New Taipei City’s Magang Fishing Pier (馬崗) in January, he said.

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